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Feb 3 17

I’m Ashamed Of Our Government

by David Brock

Forgive me for diverting from my normal commentary on business, leadership, sales, marketing, and customer experience.  I hardly feel qualified to speak about politics.  Yet, I’m a proud American Citizen, and feel I can no longer remain silent.

I’m ashamed of our government.  It’s a horrible thing for anyone to express about their government–particularly when they are elected officials.  But I’m sick and tired of the pettiness, bullying, taunting, selfish, and childish behaviors we see in our government.

It’s not just the Executive Office, but also, of our senators, congress people, and many of the bureaucrats in all parts of the government.  My shame is not limited to those representing a specific political party.  Republicans, Democrats, Independents are equally at fault.

We seem to have reached an extreme, it didn’t start on January 20, 2017, but seems to have accelerated since then.  It’s been something that has been getting increasingly worse over years and is not just attributable to partisan politics.

What makes America  and Americans great is our openness to ideas, culture, diversity, beliefs, religion, gender, race, and people. We have been a country focused on inclusion rather than exclusion.   Inherently, the “national mindset” has been a growth oriented mindset, not a closed mindset.

As a nation, we have collectively tried to focus on doing what is right, even when as individuals, it may be different from what we want.

Our country was founded with these principles.  We stumble mightily in practicing them, and every once in a while lose sight of them.

Over time, we somehow find our way back.  We learn to listen openly to different points of view. We recognize where we may have been wrong and change our positions, all striving to get better, to improve the lives of our citizens, and the people who live in our country.  We strive to set an example for others in the world to be more open, to be more inclusive, to help make the lives of people in other countries better.

It’s a fairly simple set of principles established by our founding fathers; sometimes tested, but we always come back to these basic principles.  Our ability to come together, despite our differences, despite the challenges, has always been what makes America great.  Our tolerance of differences and recognition they these differences enable us to learn and improve is what makes America great.

Yet our government, egged on by the media, seem to have lost this idea.  Our leaders in government seemed to have lost willingness to understand differences, to be open to other points of view, to engage in new ideas.  Our leaders seem to have lost the willingness to engage each other in order to reconcile these differences, to seek common ground and together arrive at a better solution.  They are not displaying the characteristics and behaviors of what makes America and Americans great.   Collectively, their mindsets seem to have become closed, when out times demand open/growth mindsets.

Daily we see our leaders exhibit behaviors that would not be tolerated from our children.  We see bullying from all sides.  We see taunting, stubborn blindness, pettiness, conceit and selfishness.  We see leaders who are unwilling to listen to differing views, who only care about those who share their opinions and views.

Instead of getting together to solve problems, they boycott, exclude, stamp their feet in stubborn resistance, resorting to name calling and taunts.  The daily temper tantrums, preening for attention and approval is not what one expects from mature adults, let along our leaders.

Even worse, this unacceptable behavior is infecting our society.  Daily, we see people, lashing out at each other, declaring the other wrong, portraying other un-American (when ironically, it’s our differences that make us very American).  They mirror the unacceptable behaviors of our leaders, failing to listen, understand, learn, reconcile; they are consumed with intolerance and their own points of view.

Fortunately, I believe this is not representative of the majority of Americans.  America and Americans are great, but greatness can’t be assumed, we always have to work for it, we have to learn and grow.  Unfortunately, our leaders have not chosen greatness, instead focusing on selfishness and pettiness.

But they work for us.  I, and I hope you, can no longer sit idly, watching or complaining.  We need to be phoning and talking to our elected representatives frequently.  Making sure they understand the shame we feel with their behavior, making sure they understand it is unacceptable to continue.

Whatever side of the issues you are on, we need our leaders to understand it is their jobs to come together and openly discuss, resolve, and move forward together.  We need to make sure they know they are expected to display the behaviors of what makes America and Americans great.  We need to make sure they understand that we expect them to continue doing the things that have made America great and bring out the greatness in all of us.

As ashamed as I am of the behaviors of our governmental leaders, I don’t despair.  I realize this is a huge opportunity for me, and for any who sit passively, to be more actively engaged in directing our leaders and to continue to show the greatness we possess as Americans.  Perhaps, the greatest learning from what’s going on, is that as citizens, we can’t sit idly hoping our elected officials will do the right thing.  We have to be actively engaged in directing them to serve us and not themselves.

No single leader, or our collected elected/appointed representatives can, “make America great.”  We are great through the collected actions and engagement of our 300 million people.  We will continue to build our greatness through our collective actions and contributions.  And through our collective example, other nations and people will be inspired to achieve their own greatness.



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Feb 3 17

“Sell What You Use, Use What You Sell!”

by David Brock

I have to admit, this post is targeted primarily to vendors of Sales/Marketing tools, services, and consulting.  I guess being a consultant in this space makes me a target for more than my fair share of poorly thought out marketing and sales approaches.  Frankly, I think any person with sales, marketing, business development in their job title gets inundated with the same crap I have to wade through daily.

To make my point, I have to step back to the 80’s  At the time, I was an executive in the Manufacturing Industry segment of IBM.  We had responsibility to sell IBM solutions to engineers and manufacturers of everything from toys to semiconductors, automobiles, airplanes.  As you might guess, IBM was a very big manufacturer itself.  In trying to grow our business, we noticed customers asking some very interesting (discomforting) questions.

“What systems and tools does IBM use for these functions?”  It could have been engineering design, process control, manufacturing systems, classic ERP functions, and many other things.

In many cases, the tools we sold were not the tools our plants and labs used.  In some cases we had our own “proprietary” tools, in others the plant or lab selected a tool different from what we sold.  Upon discovering this, some of the more challenging customers (read huge/mega manufacturers) would ask, “If the tools you sell aren’t good enough for your own plants and labs to use, then why do you expect us to buy them?”

This single question shifted our thinking about both what our internal plants and labs used, as well as what we sold.  IBM was (is) a great design and manufacturing company.  We could, in fact, become the greatest reference for best practices in many segments.  We also realized that many of the “proprietary” tools IBM plants and labs used, might be commercialized.  Finally, we recognized our own facilities might get tremendous value from using the tools we sold.

As a result, we came up with the thought, “Sell What You Use, Use What You Sell!”  It was a huge internal and external initiative, producing stunning results–both in selling to our customers, as well as improving our own operations.

Flash forward to today.  Based on the majority of marketing and selling I see from the vendors of Sales/Marketing tools, services, and consulting, I wonder if they “Sell what they use or use what they sell.”  I read their websites and am informed of things like targeting, research, relevance, impact, putting the customer first, understanding the customer needs, priorities, goals.  You know what I’m talking about—great professional sales and marketing practice/execution.  I read how their tools are supposed to help all sales and marketing people be much more effective in doing these things–that is executing marketing and sales at the highest levels of professionalism, driving higher levels of engagement, effectiveness, and efficiency.

But then I see what they execute……

Emails and phone calls that are nothing but product pitches.  Outreach that is irrelevant to me, but I happened to be on the list they procured, but didn’t scrub.  Calls where the sales person knows nothing about me or my business, but claims he can help me solve my problems. When I ask the question, “What am I doing wrong,” they freeze.

Over a year ago, a SDR suggested I didn’t understand how to maximize the performance of my sales team.  When I asked what she knew about my business and what I was doing wrong, I could hear her fingers on her keyboard, then I heard her mutter, “Oh sh*t!”

Or they aren’t prepared for the simplest issues:  At one time, as EVP of Sales, my team was looking to buy about $2M in sales training.  An important part of the training program was sales call planning and execution.  When their sales people met with me for their final presentations and closing calls, before the meetings started, I asked each person for a copy of their sales call plan (One would think a call to close a $2M order would justify a sales call plan).  Of the 4 vendors presenting, only 1 had call plan.  You can guess who got the business.

I’m on the “list” for one of the major marketing automation vendors.  Every 3 months, like clockwork, I get an email stating, “You haven’t opened a piece of correspondence we’ve sent in a year, we are dropping you from our list…”  But I continue to get their mailings, I continue to get the same email every 3 months and I think, “How are they using their scoring on me?  How come nothing they send me is relevant to me?  Isn’t their tool supposed to help with this?”

The marketing and sales execution of too many of these vendors are far from the practices they espouse and what their customers should execute, yet my and too many other’s email boxes continued to be filled with pointless, irrelevant, messages.  95% of the phone calls are simply product pitches and requests for a meeting/demo, without any questions about why I might even need the solution or what I’d like to see.

If you are selling Marketing/Sales tools/services, your prospects/customers are examining how you market and sell to them.  If it isn’t consistent with what you are “selling” to your customers, they will–and should throw you out!

If you are buying Marketing/Sales tools/services, watch how the vendors sell to you.  If they aren’t executing what they preach, then ask why they aren’t.  If they aren’t leveraging their tools to improve the quality of engaging you, then think about whether you can really get the value from what they are selling.

Yes, we all make mistakes.  I’ve done poorly thought out prospecting and mediocre calls, far below my personal standard or what people should expect.  It’s not the occasional mistake I’m ranting about, it’s the systemic cluelessness of many sales and marketing programs, focusing more on volume and velocity, and not on engagement.

Many friends and colleagues working for these companies will think I’m betraying them.  I think there can be great value from lots of these tools–properly implemented.  But you owe it to your customers and to yourselves to make your own marketing/sales approaches those that your customers aspire to emulate.


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Feb 1 17

The Customer Buying Process Is Not About You Or Your Competition!

by David Brock

I’m tempted to paraphrase the old Carly Simon song, You’re So Vain.  Too often we think our customers’ buying cycles are about us, at least a choice between us and our competitors.

We may be very customer focused in our sales process, trying to understand and align ourselves with the customer buying process.  But still, our strategies tend to focus on a singular part of the customer buying cycle, “What does it take to select us?”

As a consequence, everything we do, probably everything our competitors do is singularly focused on that one decision.

But looking at it from a customer’s view, it’s probably very different.

First, our customers aren’t involved in buying just to buy.  Buying is one component of their overall problem solving process.  Usually our customers are trying to solve a problem within their operations, or to address an opportunity.  Selecting a “solution,” is just part of their process.  They have to look at things like business process re-engineering, implementation, training, change management process, and many other things that impact their ability to solve the problem.  Yet our focus is, inevitably, on just our part of the problem they are trying to solve.

Second, we may not be the only purchasing decision they are making, or even the most important of those purchasing decisions.  Think of an Apple engineer (or substitute your favorite brand of smartphone) designing a new iPhone.  They are involved in complex design process, involving potentially hundreds of components.  That engineering team is making buying decisions for all those components.  Sometimes those buying decisions involve tradeoffs between different components.  So while we may be focused on our semiconductor, the engineering team is trading off the spend on semiconductors with other components.  We seldom pay attention to this complex set of buying activities, focusing only on the decision for our product.

Recently, I worked with a team selling an electronic component that was part of a new smartphone.  Had the team focused on just that part of the project and their direct competition, they would have surely lost–their best pricing was about 50% more than the competition–partly because their product had much more capability than the competitors.  Instead they looked at the collective set of parts the customer had to consider for this smartphone.  They realized their product eliminated the need for two other components in the design.  Taken collectively, the cost of their solution was cheaper than the cost of their competition and the cheapest alternatives for the two other products.  Additionally, the simpler design improved maneuverability and reliability.  As a result, they presented the customer with a far superior and far less costly solution than if they had just competed head to head with the competition.

Even in other sales situations, the customer is seldom just making one buying decision.  Take a complex IT systems, there may be the software (premise or cloud), there may be an implementation provider, a business process engineering provider, vendors to host the application (in the case of private cloud), ancillary software products to extend the capabilities of the software system (we may, in fact, be one of those ancillary products).  Recently, for example, I worked with a systems integration company that “won” the implementation contract for a new software system–but only if that software system was selected by the customer.  Instead, the customer selected another software system, one which my client couldn’t support.  So while they “won” the decision, the PO was placed with another supplier they had not competed against.

We disadvantage ourselves, both in our sales strategy and in maximizing our ability to create and deliver value when we focus on the customer decision about our products/services.  The work of the customer is always more than just this decision.  They struggle not only in that decision, but also in the broader set of decisions they are making to achieve their goals.

As much as we would like the decision to be about us, it seldom is.

Are you looking at what the customer is trying to achieve, beyond selecting a product?  Are you helping them with their whole process, maximizing the value you create?



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Feb 1 17

Sales And The Zombie Apocalypse

by David Brock

Recently, I was having a conversation with Robert Racine about the state of sales management.  During the discussion, he mentioned, almost in passing, that too many Sales Managers are becoming Zombies–that is acting purely on autopilot, rather than thinking, evaluating, engaging.  As I reflected on the conversation, I realized this trend isn’t limited to sales managers, but is extending to the entire organization.

It’s somewhat ironic, many sales people love the job because of the freedom, the challenge of figuring things out, the creativity of engaging customers to help them recognize and solve their problems, and the rush of winning deals.

But something has changed in selling.

I don’t know if it’s the workloads, the sheer size of our quotas and expectations of performance.  As I look at quotas and targets qualitatively, as I look at general sales production, I don’t see changes that are unexpected or abnormal.  Yes, quotas go up, but we expect people to improve and become more productive.  Plus we are investing in tools, programs, processes, and training to help them become more productive.  At a macro level, selling expense hasn’t changed markedly many complex B2B segments.

It may be the systems, tools, processes we put in place.  Things that are intended to help improve the productivity and impact of the sales person, freeing time to more effectively engage customers.  Instead, they are being implemented in very prescriptive, a very prescriptive formulaic manner.  Our words and interactions are scripted, we are measured on our compliance with these scripts.  We focus on call volumes/duration and less on outcomes.  We are so specialized that we execute our part of the process, for example, SDRs qualifying and setting meeting; then passing the customer down the sales assembly line to the next step in the process, perhaps the discovery call, then the demo, then the close……

The nature of how we work and engage has changed–perhaps not for the better.  We are deluged with information and data, we are constantly distracted by messages, emails, and the constant vibration of our smartphones in our pockets.  Our interactions are moving from deep conversations with our customers and colleagues to text messages or 140 character tweets.  We move from focusing on quality of engagement to volume and velocity.  We become information concierges, but fail to create meaning or value in the interaction.

Engagement numbers, across the board, are plummeting.  Despite all the talk about culture and values, we are increasingly disengaged.  Our managers don’t have time for us, we don’t have time for each other–but we still talk about the importance of collaboration.

Engagement with customers is plummeting.  They are overwhelmed–not just with their own jobs, but with our messaging and content.  In-boxes are filled with poorly constructed emails, customers are robo dialled endlessly, customers are inundated with “helpful” offers on every social media channel.  The only way to survive the constant barrage and broadcasts is to turn them off–which promotes further escalation (after all, it’s near free, so why not crank up the numbers?)

In fact, we really don’t have to think about these things.  Auto-reply, auto-dial, messaging applications, do all this “engagement” automatically, we don’t even have to participate.  When we do, we are auto-scripted, so we don’t have to think.

It’s the same for our managers, they pay attention to the dashboards, responding to the numbers but not understanding what the numbers mean.  “Your call volumes are going down, you need to get them up!”  Instead, perhaps a better starting point is, “What’s causing your call volumes to decrease, how can I help you improve them?”  Increasingly, coaching is being supplemented by tools that analyze what is happening and point us to a video to improve our skills, but not really engaging us in understanding why.

As well intended as each of us may be, we fall victim to these things.  We stop thinking, we stop engaging, we get on autopilot.

The rise in articles, workshops, tools on “Mindfulness” is an indicator of the problem.  While physically being present, while going through the motions and interactions, we are increasingly not present-not engaged.

We are headed to the Zombie Apocalypse of selling.

But it’s not difficult to break out of this.  It doesn’t take a lot of deep breathing and mindfulness exercises.

It starts with paying attention to what we do, how we work, why we do what we do, how can we improve.  Asking “Why” of everything is a great starting point.

It starts with caring about ourselves, about our customers, about our colleagues.  We seek to learn, to discover, to engage more deeply, and to truly collaborate.

It starts with not succumbing to the distractions, but focusing.  Less is most often more.

It starts with being present in every interaction with our people, colleagues, and customers—and not permitting them not to be present, as well.

It starts with meaning–which too often, we’ve seemed to have lost.  But it’s our jobs as leaders to create meaning for everyone in our organization.  It’s our responsibility as sales professionals to create meaning for our customers and through that to create value that no competitor can overcome.

It’s not that hard!



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