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Feb 8 20

What Does It Mean To Be “Authentic”

by David Brock

I was recently have a discussion with someone. It spanned some comments on LinkedIn and private discussions by email. I had reacted to something he had posted, suggesting that while his premise was very good in many circumstances, that there might be a number where very different approaches might be applied.

We wandered in the conversation, he kept presenting data to support his argument, me responding, “Yes, and there is more….”

At one point, perhaps out of frustration, he said:

“It’s really important to note I share my experience vs. it’s always this way in every case – I give my authentic truth”

Which got me to thinking, “What is authenticity?” Is it sharing and being true to our experience? Is it something else?

Authenticity seems to be hot right, now. I see it in the literature and news nearly every day. I don’t recall reading or hearing people talk much about authenticity 10-20-30 years ago, or even when I read about history. I don’t know if that means we were inauthentic then. Most of the historical references tend to refer to physical objects, as in “Was the art piece authentic or forged.”

Authenticity is one of those words, I suspect it’s meaning is in the eye of the beholder. One can look it up in the dictionary, here are a couple of perspectives:

Authenticity is about presence, living in the moment with conviction and confidence and staying true to yourself. … Everyone wants to be authentic. Though the people who preach its virtue often don’t understand exactly what the word meansAuthentic is defined as: “not false or copied; genuine; real.”

Not false or imitation REALACTUAL “an authentic cockney accent”

True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no pretensions.

Somehow authenticity seems to have something to do with our values, beliefs and being true to them.

But too often, we seem to be “weaponizing” the concept of authenticity. There are implicit, “I’m right and you’re wrong because I’m representing my authentic self.” Or, implicitly, “I’m good and you are bad.”

Alternatively, authenticity is used as an excuse for all types of behaviors, good or bad. Stated differently, “I gotta be me….” (Thank you Sammy Davis, Jr.)

As we look at the spectacle of the Presidential impeachment, I’m sure none of the parties involved felt they were being inauthentic, regardless of their position, yet we seem further polarized and increasingly tribal.

Which also brings us to the idea of authenticity and the truth. In the sense of real objects, authenticity as applied to real and fake, makes sense. But what does authenticity mean to ideas and experience. Again, looking at the impeachment, there are lots of conflicting ideas and experience, yet I believe each were probably authentic. And no one seemed to be searching for any kind of truth–if any kind of truth existed or was meaningful.

I think our interpretations of authenticity often lead us to closed mindsets. Yet we know to learn, grow, progress as individuals, organizations, and peoples, we should have open mindsets.

I worry, that unless provoked, as in this conversation, I never really think about authenticity. I never think about whether I’m being authentic or not. I never think about whether the person I am interacting with is authentic or not.

I have values and principles that make me, me. Among those values are honesty, caring, a sense of ethics and integrity, making a difference, meeting my commitments, being open, constantly learning/growing, owning my mistakes, forgiveness, and not taking myself too seriously. And I hope I demonstrate those in my behaviors and interactions with others.

I don’t know that I’m being authentic or not. I’ve never considered the question. To be honest, it’s not an important question to me.

But authenticity seems to dominate a lot of our conversation and our thinking. What am I missing?

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Feb 6 20

Does Being On Commission Make You Untrustworthy?

by David Brock

I read a discussion between some wickedly smart people. One person took a position that one could not be a “Trusted Advisor,” and be on commission. He later extended the argument to include being accountable for achieving a quota compromised the ability of the sales person to be trusted.

To be fair, there are people and organizations that are driven purely by self interest. They structure everything they do around maximizing the return they get, regardless the impact to the people they deal with, including customers.

We have movies like Glengary, Glen Ross, Boiler-room, The Wolf Of Wall Street that glamorize those types of sales people and organizations. We see news about the incentives and tactics of many of the companies behind the Opioid crisis. We have legacy stereotypes of the commission driven coin operated sales person.

So the focus on self interest, the drive for money or quota attainment can create these behaviors and destroy the concept of sales people as trusted advisors.

But I suspect these people and organizations will always find ways to exploit others (perhaps their own employees) and it’s not just the fact they are paid commission or have a quota.

But there is nothing inherent in quota or commission systems that cause people to be untrustworthy.

Let’s look at this a little more deeply.

  1. As sales people, we can’t make our quotas or commissions, until the customer has determined that we are the people that are the best to help them solve their problems. Stated differently, the path to our personal success is dependent on the customers choosing us and putting us in the critical path to their success.
  2. Perhaps restating the first point, our drive to get the order is not incompatible with the customer’s drive to solve their problem. What is critical to our shared success is aligning our individual self interests.
  3. The focus on self interest, of our own goal attainment, as measured by quota and incented in commissions, is no different than the focus of customers in their problem solving/buying cycles. They are driven by their self interest and goal attainment. Their job performance is evaluated on this, their ability to be promoted is evaluated on this, their ability to meet their goals is driven by this, in fact their ability to achieve bonuses or certain incentives are driven by meeting their performance objectives (a kind of quota).
  4. Stating number 3 a little differently, does the fact that our customers have performance goals (quota) or bonus incentives they may be trying to achieve make them any more or less trustworthy than sales people with similar orientations?
  5. Sales people waste their time and the customer’s time, creating huge trust gaps by chasing the wrong opportunities. That’s why focusing on our ideal customer profile (ICP), focusing on the problems we are the best in the world at solving, those that are experiencing those problems and want to do something about them is critical. These, with collaborative problem solving behaviors are what build and reinforce trust.

Selling is no different than any other collaborative process. If our individual goals and objectives cannot be aligned under a common goal/objective we will never be successful in achieving the individual or common goals.

We know 53% of customer buying processes end in no decision made, primarily because of the inability of the customer to align their individual goals an objectives, working together for a shared goal.

We know the majority of “partnerships/alliances,” whether internal or external fail because of this inability to align.

We know that the lack of flexibility, openness, collaborative behaviors in aligning around a common goal drives higher levels of distrust within the team.

What drives success in “problem solving,” in achieving goals, in resolving conflicts, in innovation, change and growth? At it’s core is the ability to align around a common vision and values. It is the ability and willingness to be open to differing points of views, to learn, to resolve conflict and align around common purposes/goals. The ability to do this both builds trust, but is essential to goal achievement.

This applies within functional groups working in an organization, across functions within an organization, or across different organizations working with each other–most often manifested in buyer-seller interactions.

It is too easy to rely on old stereotypes. blaming commission and quota for the existence of or lack of trust. There is nothing inherent to commission or quota that drives distrust. Just like within an organization there is nothing inherent to an individual’s performance objectives and compensation plans that drives distrust.

Instead it is the inability of the sales person and customer to align in what they are trying to achieve–which is always to solve the customer problem.

Saying commission and quotas drive distrust plays to the stereotypes and myths many want to perpetuate about sales people. It plays to many of the excuses people want to create around poor performance. But in reality, it diverts us from the real issues that impact building and maintaining trust in/across organizations.

We are better than this. We must be better than this if we are going to support our own ambitions and those of the customer.

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Feb 4 20

Trusting Yourself, Trusting Your People

by David Brock

Charlie Green and I were having a conversation about “Trust.” (Charlie is the world’s go to person on anything having to do with trust, particularly in sales.) We were discussing a concept I had, I’m still trying to work it out in my mind, Charlie helped in clarifying it.

Let me try it on you, I’d love your feedback and ideas.

I am thinking about the concept of trust as it applies to sales management. I was trying to understand the difference between managers that display trusting behaviors–genuinely, not naively. I’ve noticed the managers that tend to do this are the highest performers and best leaders.

I’ve also noticed these managers have a high degree of “self trust,” and that translates into trust in their people.

These managers focus on the following:

  • Making sure they have the right people in place.
  • Making sure the people clearly understand their jobs, performance expectations, and how they contribute to the organization’s overall goals.
  • Making sure their people understand the key priorities and goals of the manager/organization (Otherwise known as “Commander’s Intent.”)
  • Making sure they have provided the systems, processes, tools, programs, training, etc. to do their jobs.
  • Making sure they get the support their people need to do their jobs.
  • Making sure they both protect and promote their people within the organization.
  • Making sure they continue to coach and develop their people.
  • Making sure they and their people continue to learn and develop ans people and business professionals.

In doing these things, these managers, “trust” their people to do their jobs. They engage in adding value in helping their people, but they never micro-manage, because they know they are doing the things most important to maximizing performance in the organization.

This concept is analogous to the concept of “Commander’s Intent.” There’s a great discussion of this in General Mattis’ “Call Sign Chaos.”

Contrast this with poor managers and micromanagers. One might assume micromanagement is a manifestation of their lack of trust in their people. But the more of these managers I meet and interview, the more I discover their own lack of self confidence and trust in themselves.

While they never admit it, and many of their behaviors tend to overcompensate for their own lack of understanding of what drives performance. Too often, these managers have failed to do the things great managers do. As a result, they are filled with uncertainty and self doubt. To compensate for this, they tend to micromanage, assign blame, divert attention from their own capability.

What are your thoughts?

Does a manager’s own lack of confidence in their own abilities, drive them not to trust their own people?

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Feb 3 20

Understanding Customer Pain Points

by David Brock

This morning, I had a conversation with an entrepreneur. He was building the sales capability, scaling the growth of the company. He discussed a problem I hear from too many sales people:

“We have great first meetings. We understand the customer pain points, we talk about how our solution can help them…. But after the first meeting, they go dark. When we finally get them to respond, they’ve shifted their focus to the latest crisis….. How do we keep them focused on the issues we discussed?”

It’s a common problem. Sales people have great first meetings, but they lose momentum. The customer’s attention gets diverted, they move on to the next thing, their priorities shift. Often, sales people have to start all over, establishing pain…., but the cycle repeats itself.

It’s not bad intent on the part of the customer. They are overwhelmed. They move from on crisis to the next. From one “interesting project,” to the next. They start a lot of things, with great intentions, those get re-prioritized, they move on to something else.

Part of it is our problem. If we’ve done our job correctly, we’ve understood the customer’s “pain,” we’ve painted a vision of how they can address those issues, and, hopefully, gotten their agreement to learn more.

But we’ve missed something critical. We may not have translated that pain into a compelling need to change. We haven’t helped the customer see they can’t continue as they are. We haven’t gotten them to say, “This is unacceptable, we have to change!”

The part we miss is translating their pain points into business impact. We haven’t gotten the customer to bridge the pain/challenges they see to Dollars/Euros/Pounds/Yuan.

In the conversation with the entrepreneur, this morning, we quickly looked at one of his opportunities. The problem the customer faced cost them $150K per month. He suddenly realized the customer and he didn’t understand the magnitude of the problem, that solving it could save them $1.8M per year.

When we tie the customer’s pain to the business impact, translating that into Dollars–cost, revenue, lost opportunity, profit/margin–we have a stronger possibility of keeping the customer focused on addressing that issue.

The pain is something they have lived with, otherwise they would have done something before. Translating that pain into business impact can dramatically increase the sense of urgency and commitment to do something.

This not only helps provoke the customer into committing to a change, but through the buying process, when they sometimes get distracted, we can come back to that business impact, gently reminding them what they are trying to achieve and what it means from a business point of view.

Understanding the customer pain is the starting point. We need to translate that pain into business impact.

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