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Jul 30 18

Beware Of Sales Enablement Experts Prospecting

by David Brock

Every day, each of us gets dozens of horrendously bad prospecting emails.  My friend, Hank Barnes, of Gartner has made a regular #FridayFails series featuring his worst of the week.

Fortunately, spam filters take care of most of them, but some filter through anyway.  I’ve limited my writing about these–there’s just too much bad material that it gets repetitive.  But I can’t refrain from writing about a certain category of prospecting letters.  It’s those written by self proclaimed experts in sales, marketing, sales enablement, prospecting, content.

I write about these for several reasons.  First, even people who know better do stupid things.  Second, if they are using the methods and techniques they espouse as “best practice,” then their prospecting is actually a representation of their work–and what they can do for you.  Read Buyer Beware!  Finally, I do get some sort of perverse joy at calling these horrendous effort to people’s attention.

Before I go further, I’ve done terribly bad prospecting before, I’ll probably fall victim to some bad efforts in the future.  We all make mistakes, hopefully, learn and improve.  But the examples I highlight from these self proclaimed guru’s represent systemic approaches they use.  It’s not just one ill conceived approach, but it’s them consciously executing the very worst of prospecting, inflicting it over and over in a mindless way.

About a week ago, a good friend and client, let’s call him John, forwarded me an email stream, saying, “This is just horrible prospecting!  It’s from someone who does similar stuff to you…..”  John  is EVP of Sales and Marketing for a $B plus organization.  He’s done some tremendous things in building the capability of the organization, and we’ve been proud to help in those efforts.  So it was funny to see his reaction to this person’s prospecting efforts.

This morning, he forwarded me the email stream, yes the madness continued.  His note simply said, “This takes the cake for all time worst email prospecting!”

I’ve reproduced the email flow below, as you would expect, all names and links have been changed.

Email 1:

John,

I notice on LinkedIn that we have several connections in common. As the Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at XYZ, I would think that we also have similar challenges driving growth and results.

We’ve been successful at helping other Sales & Marketing VPs at companies like Company A, Company B, and Company C to hit their numbers through our Sales Enablement technology.

Here is a quick 1-minute video on our website that better explains it [Link to self promotional video]

Do you have a few minutes to talk next week?

Regards, Bob, CEO, [Sales Enablement Company]

Email 2, 5 days later, this was a forward of the original email with the new note leading:

John,

Just following up on my previous email.

Best Regards, Bob, CEO, [Sales Enablement Company]

Email 3, 5 days later, another build on the prior emails:

John,

Sorry to keep bothering you.   I just think that we can really help you drive revenue at XYZ through sales effectiveness.

Regards, Bob, CEO, [Sales Enablement Company]

Email 4, 5 days later, same pattern:

John, just following up.

Bob. CEO, [Sales Enablement company]

Email 5, 1 day later, you guessed it same pattern:

John,

I should stop bugging you soon. I don’t want you to think that I’m as annoying as this other “Canadian”, Justin Bieber.

[Link to Justin Bieber song]

Regards, Bob, CEO, [Sales Enablement Company]

 

What in the world is “Bob” trying to accomplish, and is this a demonstration of his organization’s competence and expertise in selling?

He’s not creating any value in his messaging.  He might have in the first, but while he chose references in the same industry as John’s, the references were B2B2C examples, and John runs a B2B business.  So there wasn’t much he could learn from those references—beside the links took him to “here’s our fantastic products.”

Bob could have demonstrated his knowledge by providing some insight into the challenges the industry is facing (tremendous industry consolidation, regulatory, restructuring issues impacting all players).  He could have provided some examples of how his organization helped similar companies address those challenges.  But he didn’t.

Then in his subsequent emails, he didn’t build on anything.  He didn’t expand his message, he didn’t address other issues, he didn’t demonstrate any knowledge of the issues John may have been facing.  He didn’t provide any insight into industry activity (It so happened John’s company made a major disruptive acquisition, but of course Chris didn’t take the time to acknowledge that or even talk about the integration challenges of that acquisition.).

Bob was simply too lazy to build a message that demonstrated knowledge, delivered insight, or provoked interest.  But I suppose, his company thinks that volume and touches count, not content.

Bob goes further in insulting John.  He acknowledges, two times, that his messages are nothing more than harassment.  That he isn’t engaging, that he isn’t trying to create value.  All he wants to do is “bug” and waste John’s time.

What Bob has done has been not just squander a potential to build a relationship and help my friend.  He’s created a “prospect” actively telling his friends, “If this is an example of their work, stay away from them!”

John asked me what to do.  I gave a few snide suggestions, but in the end told him not to react, just “SPAM” it.  I added, you can expect he will give you 9-11 additional emails because that’s what the data says–it takes 14-16 touches to get someone to respond.  It’s already programmed into his drip campaign, we know the mailing pattern, so we can predict the days you are likely to get an email.

John sighed, he just created a rule to move all messages from Bob’s company into his SPAM filter.

The profession of selling deserves better than this!  Our customers deserve better than this!

As you evaluate vendors, including companies like mine, make sure we practice what we preach.  The way we prospect and develop relationships with you, the way we engage and create value for you and your team is likely to be what we will drive in working with your team.  If you think “Bob’s” approach is right, if it builds the relationships and engages customers in the way that you think represents your company well–then clearly he has a solution for you.  If not, then don’t waste your time.

 

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Jul 27 18

Buyer Efficiency

by David Brock

There are thousands of posts, hundreds of tools, hundreds of books focusing on “sales efficiency.”  Sales efficiency is important.  We want our people to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible.  (As a side note, focusing on sales efficiency without first focusing on sales effectiveness will do nothing more than creating crap at the speed of light.)

The problem with the exclusive focus on sales efficiency, is that it focuses on us, what we do, and how we do it.  But it ignores the customer–ironically, much of what we do to be efficient, makes the buyer very inefficient.

One begins to wonder, “If we try to help the buyer become very efficient, might it also cause us to be more efficient?”

The concept of “how do we help the buyer accomplish more in less time,” enables us to also spend less time on each deal.  Since it is buyer focused–a process of creating value with the buyer, it’s also likely to have a huge impact on our effectiveness.  We have the possibility of winning more business in less time, with the buyer spending less time and achieving their goals at an accelerated rate.

But we do so many things in the name of sales efficiency that actually make buyers more inefficient.  Examples include:

  • Email.  we leverage all sorts of tools and automation to paper our customers with millions of meaningless emails.  While buyers are automating much of their process of dealing with these through spam or related filters.  There are still the hundreds that filter into each buyer’s inbox every week.  They have to waste time deleting or unsubscibing to these.
  • Power/Robo diallers.  We put tools in place to make 1000’s of dials a day.  We leverage those, hoping to have 10’s, possibly hundreds of conversations.  But think of the buyer side.  As an example, I get 15-20 calls on my office and mobile phone every day.  I’ve trained myself (and am training our clients) not to pick up calls from numbers I don’t recognized.  But the interruption, even if I don’t answer the call is a distraction, it takes a few seconds to refocus my time, over the course of the day, the distraction is hugely annoying.  For those calls I pick up, I have to wait to be connected–I won’t wait, so I hang up.  But I’ve wasted my time.
  • Our pitch.  When we do get to talk to customers, we focus on our products.  It’s efficient for us, we talk about what we want to talk about.  But even if the customer is interested, it becomes their task to figure out, “What does this mean to us?  How does this help us achieve our objectives more effectively, efficiently?….”  We put the onus on the customer to figure out how to apply what our products do to their specific business issues.  It’s hugely inefficient for them, but we’ve accomplished what we wanted to do very efficiently.
  • Lack of customer research/understanding–particularly in prospecting.  Again, sales people look for volume and velocity.  It allows us to accomplish a lot in a very short period of time.  But too often, we are calling the wrong customers–wasting their time.  Alternatively, we don’t understand the customer business/drivers/problems, so we can’t connect effectively with those customers we talk to.  For those customers we do talk to, it takes a lot of their time explaining their business, markets, drivers and challenges.  If we have a basic understanding–through research, we and the customers save huge amounts of time getting to the issues most important to them more quickly.
  • When we do find an interested customer, we waste huge amounts of time.  We are unprepared, we take more meetings than necessary to accomplish our goals, we focus on executing our process, not understanding their buying process.  In our research, we’ve found that sales people make 37-50% more calls than necessary, largely because of poor call planning and execution.  Each of those additional calls we have to make, takes more time from the customer.
  • We focus on individuals, rather than the buying group.  Much of complex B2B buying is consensus oriented (the proverbial 6.8).  Too often, we focus our efforts on one or two people–that just sales error.  Sometimes, we try to call on the 6.8 (I do have to admit, I have great difficulty finding that 0.8 individual), we do it one on one.  But the challenge the customers have in buying is not a one on one challenge.  It’s a group consensus seeking challenge.  We help the customers more, when we design meetings around the buying group, not just individuals.  At the same time, we improve our efficiency tremendously by focusing on the buying group.
  • Business justified proposals aligned with top corporate objectives.  Perhaps, we’ve gone through the whole buying process with the customer.  We’ve provided a proposal, pricing, all the benefits the customer should achieve.  The buying group still has to get approval from senior management.  They have to present a business case, and they have to position what they want in terms of the impact on corporate goals.  Customers struggle with this, particularly if they aren’t buying every day.  Too few sales people help customers with this.  As a result customers spend a lot of time figuring out, the things we can help them understand more effectively.

Buyers are smart.  While we don’t think about buyer efficiency, they are fixated on it.  They are trying to manage their time just as viciously as we are trying to manage our time.  They already have solutions:

  • They trash our emails and don’t answer our calls.  Our reaction is to ramp up the volume, making us less efficient.
  • They self educate through digital and others types of research.  They know we waste their time, so they go after what they want, when they want it, how they want it.
  • They minimize and defer their engagement with sales people as late in the process as they possibly can.  The data shows they are anywhere between 57-92% through the process before they engage sales people.  If they can, they will buy without engaging sales people.

There are many other things buyers do to improve their buying efficiency.

One wonders, if we focused first on helping buyers become more efficient (and effective), might we also become more efficient and effective?

Perhaps the design point of sales efficiency is the wrong design point.

 

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Jul 25 18

We Have To Have The Courage To Let Our People Do Their Jobs!

by David Brock

Too often, as managers, we get in the way of our people doing their jobs–either purposefully/intrusively, accidentally, being well-intentioned, or through inattention.

Whichever way this manifests itself, it stands in the way of us doing our jobs–that is to maximize the performance of each person on our team.  Failing to do this, means we don’t achieve our goals in the short or long term.

We can’t do our people’s jobs–the numbers go against us.  We do them, our companies, a disservice if we don’t enable them, hold them accountable, and let them do their jobs.

But too often we don’t let our people do their jobs!

Drilling down:

  1.  People don’t understand their jobs and what they are accountable for.  Saying, “Here’s your territory, here’s your quota, go out and sell,” is insufficient.  However, too often, the guidance sales people get isn’t much more than that.  People need to understand what their job is, how they are expected to do it (e.g. processes, tools, activities, product lines, customer experience/engagement, etc.), how they will be measured, how the manager can support and help them.  This isn’t a one time conversation, but it’s a continued discussion, coaching, and tuning what they do to maximize their performance in doing what they should be doing, and not wasting time doing things they shouldn’t be doing.
  2. Often managers take responsibilities away from the sales people, not letting them do the jobs we’ve hired them for.  They do this through micromanagement, instructing them on each next step.  They swoop into a customer situation doing the deal themselves–either because they don’t trust the sales person or through some misguided “super hero” complex.  The more we take away these responsibilities, the less accountable sales people become–rightfully so.
  3. We don’t give our people a chance to fail.  This is less a statement about compassion (e.g. we don’t want to see our children fail), but more driven by lack of confidence in their ability to do their jobs.  We keep diving in, to avoid failures, but as a result, sales people never learn and grow.  The trick for managers is to recognize part of growing our people’s capabilities is giving them the opportunity to succeed or fail, but constructing those so that no single failure is catastrophic to the individual or what you are trying to achieve.  Stated differently, “sink or swim” is irresponsible management.
  4. Our “help” is not helpful.  We may be driven to help our people, but we aren’t being helpful in the things they really need help on.  Sometimes, as mentioned above, we do things for them or to them, failing to coach them and help them figure out what they should be doing.
  5. We don’t trust our people–I know I’ve said this earlier in the post, but it bears repeating.  Down deep, we really don’t trust out people to execute what we need them to do, in the manner we expect them to do it.  So we micromanage, tell, do the job for them.  If you don’t trust your people, it’s your problem.  If you have the wrong people, it’s your problem.  Get the right people, make sure they are clear about their jobs, give them the tools and support they need, then LET THEM DO THEIR JOB!  Then coach and develop, so they can constantly improve.
  6. It takes courage and confidence to let go, letting them to their jobs.  Too often, we don’t have that courage and confidence, because we have failed to to our jobs (all the things I’ve mentioned to this point.).

I’ll stop here.  You hired them to do a job, let them do it.  You focus your time on doing your job rather than theirs.

 

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Jul 23 18

Controlling Your Destiny

by David Brock

For those who may not have already guessed, I’m a control freak.  It can be a terrible characteristic if it is manifested in micro-management, constantly being in tell mode, not listening.  Over years, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what I can control–and makes sense to control, and letting go.

As much as we like to think we can control things, there is so much beyond our control.

We can’t control our customers or their buying process.  We can only seek to guide it, influence it, help our customers navigate the buying process, but they have to control and manage it themselves.

We can’t control the conversations with our customer or our peers.  As much as we would like to think we control it, we actually lose so much of the valuable interaction when we do so.  We focus on what we want to focus on, perhaps not what’s important.  We suppress engagement when we try to control the discussion.   High quality conversations are two way, we need to share control with the other person.  This doesn’t mean we don’t set an agenda or goals for what we would like to achieve, but that we also have to be aware of what the other people in the conversation want to achieve.

There are lots of things in our sales strategies that are outside our control.  We have to be aware of them, we have to plan for how we might deal with them, should they occur  (we always should have contingency strategies.)

There are things that are, largely, controllable or in our control.  Ironically, they are the things, too few pay attention to, as a result, they fail to achieve–or tend to wander.

We must control our time.  We disciplined in how we use our time, we have to block time effectively, we have to focus on the important, rather than the urgent.

We must control our distraction.   One study shows people checking their phones/devices about 80 times a day.  Another shows millennial looking at theirs as many as 150 times a day.  These distractions are a drain on our productivity and effectiveness.  They rob us of time to think and reflect.

We are in control of how we prepare and execute–but too often, we don’t take control and actually do those things that cause us to be impactful and effective.

We are in control of our emotions —  sometimes, it’s hard to be, but I sit on my hands, bite my tongue and count to 1000  😉

We exercise self control over a number of things, beyond our emotions.

We must seize control of our learning, we cannot cede this to anyone, or fail to have established our own learning and growth objectives.  Too often, I speak with executives and business professionals.  I ask about their personal learning plans—What are you reading, why?  What podcasts/books are you listening to?  What seminars/courses are you taking?    What are you trying to learn, how are you going about it?  Too often, by questions are met with blank stares.  Sometimes, people tell me the training programs their companies have required them to take.

Learning and growing is critical if we are to contribute to our customers, companies, industries, communities.  If we don’t control our own learning agendas, we aren’t growing, or we are ceding our growth to someone else—how can one be a control freak and let this happen.

There is so much we cannot control.  But, by controlling those things we can, we can control, we can more effectively influence those we can’t.

Funny how that works.

 

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