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Jun 12 19

Hacking Sales

by David Brock

“Hacking” is a hot word. We read constantly of hacking–both in good and bad contexts:

  • We’re terrified of people/organizations hacking our passwords, ids, accounts, systems, and so forth. In this case, hacking is breaking in and stealing something.
  • We’re fascinated with computer hackers. Both terrified of those hacking for bad purposes, and envious of those that figure out how to get things done in clever ways.
  • People like Tim Ferris, make millions in helping identify “hacks” or shortcuts to all sorts of things–whether it is learning a language, traveling, learning a new skill, making money, getting fit. We’re enthralled to learn the shortcuts to success.
  • We identify “hacks,” as “cheap, mediocre, second rate practitioners,” often incompetent.
  • Hacks are often “jury rigged” or temporary solutions.

Hacking sales/marketing is the subject of countless blog posts and books. Every pundit seems to have some sort of magical short cut to success, stating, “all you have to do is this simple thing….”

We invest huge amounts of time and energy in trying to “hack” sales/marketing success. We seem to be obsessed with finding short-cuts, ironically, not focused on helping us get better, but more focused on avoiding doing the work.

We mistakenly think these sales hacks make us better. I’m no different from you, I’m not a masochist, I want to find better/easier ways of doing things.

I think we confuse “hacking” with “simplification.” Both appear to have similar objectives–perhaps making us more effective or more efficient, or to make things easier.

But the way we achieve these objectives is very different, and our ability to continuously achieve those goals is very different.

The process of finding hacks is usually focused on short cuts. It’s typically very narrowly focused on just one thing. For example, “How can I avoid all the tough work in prospecting?” We usually come up with very narrow solutions, optimized just to that. For example, hacks for prospecting might be: It’s marketing’s/SDRs job, I’ll let them do it, it’s not my fault if they can’t find enough. I’ll just focus on inbound. Or, “Targeting is too much work, I’ll just send a few thousand more emails and see who responds.” Of course, technology is our friend in coming up with hacks, we have the ability to scale what we do virtually infinitely, at no or low incremental cost. So, too often, we leverage technology to hack selling.

Hacks work until they don’t, usually they work for a short time, but I’ve never seen a hack that produces sustainable results.

Simplification is different–simplification is not simple, in fact it’s hard work. It means we have to really understand what’s happening, and why. In prospecting, we have to understand, “Who’s most likely to respond to our outreach, why do they respond? How do we find them? How do we engage them in the most impactful ways?”

At the same time, in our simplification process, we recognize that what we do is impacted by other systems, processes in the organization, and we impact other systems and processes. We don’t treat the problem in isolation, but try to understand the interconnections. So we might work with marketing to see what they might do that can help improve our ability to prospect, or to make sure we understand if anything we might be doing might have an adverse impact on what marketing is doing. Likewise, we would look downstream from those prospecting activities to understand how what we do impacts others that might be involved. Then we would look at how we do it effectively and efficiently, producing the best possible outcomes in the best way possible.

You may be thinking, “this is entirely too much work, it’s just so much easier to find a hack……” But then the reality is our hacks aren’t working. If they were, we wouldn’t see:

  • Continued year over year declines in sales performance.
  • Continued customer avoidance and unhappiness with sales engagement.
  • Active customer dis-engagement.
  • Increases in dis-engagement among our people.
  • Increases in voluntary and involuntary turnover.

Organizational and Individual Performance is driven by obsessive learning, relentless execution, continuous improvement, deep understanding. There are no shortcuts, we have to do the work.

We can’t hack our way to success. We can create some “sugar highs,” but without deep understanding, it is impossible to sustain.

And we’ve known this all the time, but too often choose to ignore this. After all, the dictionary is very clear: Hacks are cheap, mediocre, incompetent practitioners. Hacking something is only a temporary, jury rigged solution.

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Jun 12 19

Our FOMO Causes Us To……

by David Brock

We live in a world of constant distraction, driven by our Fear Of Missing Out.

We can’t bear being separated from our devices, constantly diverting our attention to their vibrations, beeps, and alerts. We spend more time looking at the small screen than we do looking at the world around us.

We spend endless time in meetings, but we actually aren’t present. As a result we have to schedule another meeting, at which we still aren’t present. Then we muse about why we aren’t making the progress we hoped to make.

We fail to make progress in our daily “to-do” lists (if we even have them), constantly being diverted by the latest email, voicemail, text. Our well planned day falls apart because of the constant interruptions we allow to drive our priorities.

We “buckle down to work,” yet we have dozens of tabs open on our computers. We jump from tab to tab, and back, unless diverted by the alert that keep popping up in the lower right corner of our screens.

We worry about missing out, so we respond immediately, even though, unless you are an emergency services operator, an immediate response is not required.

We have trained each other to be driven by interruption, so we are surrounded by a network of people, that are continually diverted from their goals and displaced priorities. Networked FOMA snowballs to mass distraction.

We confuse busyness and activity with making progress and producing results.

We measure our importance by how full our calendars are and how many meetings we participate in.

We are consumed by our “sales stack,” thinking we are being efficient, not realizing we aren’t being effective.

We aggressively build our networks and our connections, but we really aren’t any more connected.

We are so afraid of missing out, we don’t realize we really are…..

The data surrounds us, yet we ignore it. Year after year of declining sales performance. Year after year of missed goals.

If you buy Mike Weinberg’s #SalesTruth for nothing more than his discussion about our FOMO (though he doesn’t call it that), and the importance of disciplined time blocking, you will get huge value! But there is so much more.

Don’t miss out!

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Jun 11 19

Making Sense Of Sensemaking

by David Brock

This is the final post in this series——-YAY! Thank you for hanging in there!

If you have missed the previous posts, The links to all the others in this series, please go to: Sensemaking, The Big Issue Facing Both Our Customers And Us.

As you might have guessed, I’m trying to make sense of sensemaking myself. I’ve been studying it for some, time, creating some experiments with clients. But I still have a lot to learn. Writing down some of the ideas is helpful to my learning process and my ability to articulate the them. I am still clumsy in the articulation, but will continue to refine and improve it.

But I wanted to try to give you some thoughts about how to move forward in your own sensemaking journey.

Some ideas, thoughts, challenges:

  1. Learn how to characterize where your customers find themselves. Which quadrant do they see themselves in? We’ve learned some parameters of how to do this–looking at order versus disorder, what is known versus what is unknown. Based on where they see themselves determines how we most effectively engage them.
  2. Recognize your customers may not know where they are or be able to articulate it. We create value by helping them assess their situation against the order/disorder, known/unknown dimensions through asking them questions about what they face.
  3. They may be in multiple spaces at one time. A certain part of the organization may be in a certain quadrant, other parts may be in different quadrants. Remember, complexity “rolls downhill,” so the “customers” you work with will be impacted by the rest of the organization. The lower they are in the organization, the more they will be impacted by those higher and in other parts of the organization.
  4. If you have to guess, a safe guess is that they are in the Complex domain. But again, how they respond to your questions in (2) will help refine that guess.
  5. Once we’ve figured out where the customer perceives themselves, you know have a “formula” for how to engage them in helping them address their challenges and move forward (respond). We know the frameworks for working with our customers:
    1. Simple: Sense, categorize, respond.
    2. Complicated: Sense, analyze, respond.
    3. Complex: Probe, sense, respond.
    4. Chaotic: Act, sense, respond.
  6. Our customers are “prisoners of their own experiences.” This impacts how they assess their situations, and where they are positioned. Because we work with 100s to 1000s of customers in similar spaces, we have a much broader experience base and a very different context to help our customers understand what they face and how to respond. Sharing this experience and helping the customer in their own sensemaking initiatives is, possibly, the greatest value we can create.
  7. We create our greatest value in helping our customers make sense of what they face, then helping them determine how they best respond. Our solutions are only vehicles for helping them achieve this, not the reason they are buying. We lose site of this.
  8. Your customers are likely to be grouped in the same domain. There’s a temptation to think, “Do I have to figure this out for every customer in every sales situation?” Here’s where being very clear on your ICP is critical. Customers in your ICP, are likely to be clustered in a similar domain–at least for the problems and issues that you address, and the target personas within your customer.
    1. As a result, you can develop tools, processes, skills, content, systems, organizational structure/roles expert at addressing the problems and challenges within a specific quadrant.
    2. Where your customers are will vary depending on the market/solution maturity. Early in a market/solution cycle, we are likely to be in the Complex domain. As the solutions/markets mature, we move into the Complicated, ultimately Simple domains. Are targeting strategies and engagement strategies will vary depending on the maturity of the market/solution.
  9. Our customers have hierarchies of challenges. As we look at the customer problems/challenges we have some interesting strategic choices about who and how we engage. We have the opportunity to reposition ourselves, changing who we engage and how we differentiate what we do.
    1. Consider who owns the root problem you address with your customer? Problems/challenges generally occur in hierarchies. While we may focus on the “problem owner,” that problem may just be a small component of a much bigger set of problems. We might gain deeper insight and create greater value by working with those who own the “root” problem.
    2. We can dramatically reshape the market perception of a problem. Remember how SFDC reshaped the market for CRM, by redefining how customers perceived the problem.
  10. Recognize that becoming a Sensemaker demands new skills and capabilities at all levels of the organization. Sensemaking is neither a marketing nor a sales enablement program. It is a strategic choice that shapes everything you do in the organization, the people you hire, and how you engage your customers.

Whew!!!! This has been a long journey! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

This was important for me to write. As we look at the turbulence both our organizations and our customers face, most of our traditional approaches, methods, strategies will no longer be sufficient. We have to change profoundly. We have to look for new processes, tools, approaches.

I’m early in my thinking on Sensemaking. Writing this was my attempt to start to think about the issues myself. I will keep coming back to this topic over the coming months.

Because I’ve covered so much in this series, I will be putting it together in an eBook. I will be adding a lot of references of materials I find helpful and tools you can use. If you are interested in getting it, send me an email at Give me several weeks, I have to consolidate and edit these posts.

Thanks again!

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Jun 10 19

Sensemaking: Sensemaking Within Our Own Organizations

by David Brock

This post is the eleventh post in my series on Sensemaking. The previous posts focus on how we can align and become sensemakers in working with our customers. This will focus on how we look at our own organizations.

For links to the other posts in the series, go to: Sensemaking, The Big Issue Facing Both Our Customers And Us.

As a reminder, I’ve posted a copy of the Cynefin model below.

The model provides us a framework to assess our organization and how we best address our challenges and problems, based on which quadrant we find ourselves in.

I won’t review the characteristics of each quadrant, or the Sensemaking methodology we apply in each quadrant. The diagram provides an overview. Also, earlier in this series, I went through each quadrant–from the customer perspective. The principles outlined there are the same principles we would apply in our own organizations.

Building on those capabilities, there are a few key points:

When we look at our own organization or function, in isolation, we may, mistakenly put them in the Simple or Complicated quadrants. For example, we may have had a very stable set of target customers, a well defined structure and go to market approach, and we keep just keep doing what we’ve always done. Stated differently, we’re happily working in our silos without needing to change.

Unfortunately, we find the world, consequently our businesses, don’t work in siloed domains–at least effectively. We are dependent on other parts of the organization and they are dependent on us. As a result, what used to work is no longer working as effectively as before.

More importantly, our customers force changes on what we do, how we do it. Being able to support them, creates problems and challenges we haven’t seen before.

Overlay on all of this, the “turbulence” I outlined in the very first post in this series. Few of us are not impacted by turbulence, as a result, increasingly we are finding our functions and enterprises moving into the Complex domain.

For many of us, facing severe disruption of our markets, severe disruption of our organizations (through mis-management, strategic errors, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures), we may find our organizations in the Chaotic domain.

Or more often, we find our organizations in Disorder–that is everyone has a different view of where we really are at, and we can resolve that difference. (And usually, when resolved, we probably find ourselves in the Complex domain.)

As we struggle to cope, as we try to figure out where we are at, then leverage the Cynefin principles to figure out how to respond, it’s important to understand the fundamentals.

We will be unable to respond or sustain our ability to respond without the fundamentals:

A clear purpose and everyone aligned around the purpose. Implicit in this purpose is a culture where everyone is aligned around the same values, everyone is committed to the same vision.

The organization, from the top leaders through the rest of the organization, must be obsessed with learning and continous improvement. But this learning is focused, it is tested an applied every day by everyone in execution, and drives another learning loop.

Individually and organizationally, we have to think in systems and frameworks. Cynefin is one set of frameworks that help us, there are many others like agile, lean, or problem solving methods that help us characterize and solve the problems we want. There are complementary Sensemaking tools we can leverage to help us understand and respond.

As individuals and organizations we have to increasingly become comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have to become comfortable with risk, uncertainty, ambiguity, dichotomy, paradox, change and adaptation.

At whatever level, we must recognize we cannot do this alone, we must leverage our teams, our colleagues in the organization, our partners, customers and suppliers. We will only be successful learning from each other and collaborating.

Most of all, we must recognize the tendency to become complacent, to not recognize the change and disruption around us. We must avoid becoming prisoners of our own experience.

We have the tools to help us understand and deal with these things. But without leadership, we will never understand or respond.

Tomorrow, I will wrap up this series. Sensemaking, at least initially, is very difficult to understand. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around how we leverage it to drive our own strategies, and how we innovate value with our customers. In the final post, hopefully, I can start to help you make Sense of Sensemaking.

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