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Nov 25 19

“The Boom In Sales Technology”

by David Brock

I suppose it’s normal to see the flood of articles, prospecting emails, calls and such on “sales technology.” Dreamforce is over, we all have visions of our technology based futures dancing in our heads.

We see the MarTech and other charts, with 1000’s of suppliers, in unimaginable niches, giving us the most essential sales and marketing technologies, guaranteed to drive performance and customer engagement.

We all talk about the future of AI/ML enabled marketing and sales. Seeing a bright future of effortless customer engagement, sales performance, and sky rocketing productivity.

We know the future of sales and marketing, and it is technology enabled–if not technology led. Already we are spending billions on tools, software, and services. Our technology stacks are growing.

The future is bright! At least for the suppliers of these products and services.

But then, as it inevitably does, reality comes crashing in. We look at actual sales and revenue performance. We look at customer engagement, experience, and satisfaction. We look at sales turnover (voluntary/involuntary). We look at trust–trust customers have in our organizations, trust our employees have in us and our organizations.

The numbers in all of these areas are going the wrong direction! Performance and productivity continues to hit new lows, customer engagement too often becomes avoidance, turnover is now at 16.5 months, and trust is at all time lows.

Wasn’t technology supposed to do just the opposite?

Then, we get really granular, we look at our own personal experiences of technology. Daily we get inundated with emails, phone calls, texts, and other “messaging,” from people leveraging technology for outreach and engagement. For 99% of those outreaches, there is no way I should have ever been on the list. I’m not in the ICP, I’m not a target customer. But for some reason, they have captured my contact information and decide to blindly inundate me with garbage.

Add a layer of AI/ML, and one would be certain that, not only should I not be on those lists, but I probably should be avoided–because I write about the experiences or encourage my friend, Hank Barnes, to put in #FridayFails.

Or I look at my clients, after decades of CRM use, compliance is still their number one technology issue. Organizations are spending billions on technology that their people aren’t/won’t/can’t use. Recently, I was speaking with a mid level manager, we were talking about a deal. I asked him to display the deal in the CRM system, he didn’t know how. Or another client, we agreed on next steps the teams should be taking in the account, but they didn’t know how to enter tasks/events—so they reverted to Outlook.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a technologist. Most of my career has involved bringing some type of technology to the market and customers, whether selling mainframe computers, software, or co-founding AI/ML based companies.

Technology offers us great promise. But in the decades that I have been involved in technology, the available technologies are far ahead of our abilities to exploit the technology in meaningful ways. Our abilities to exploit it, extracting it’s real value continues to be ridiculously poor.

Who’s at fault?

It’s all of us, suppliers and consumers of technology alike.

Suppliers exploit our penchant to look for miracle cures, quick fixes, silver bullets. They have THE answer, we naively believe it is just that easy, no thought required and sign on for a 3 year subscription. They add us to their list of references, seeking yet another victim, I mean customer, to build their ARR/CLV. They don’t have to worry about retention for a few years.

Our sales enablement teams deploy the technology, claiming victory, because too often, success for them is the deployment of new tools, technologies, capabilities. We all have sat in the reviews where the leaders proudly discuss what they accomplished over the past quarter or year. Yet we seldom come back to measure the results–or it becomes impossible to attribute the results to any one thing.

And we and our people, trudge on, doing the same things we have always done, perhaps with a veneer of new technology, not getting better–often getting worse.

So it’s everyone’s fault and no one’s fault. The reality is none of it (well almost none) is as malicious as I portray it, it’s really the thoughtlessness with which we implement these technologies and new capabilities.

The answer is clear, it’s always been in front of us. Perhaps it’s because it is so obvious and simple, we discount it. Perhaps because it’s tough work, we avoid it.

It’s all about the fundamentals!

  • Who are we, what do we want to stand for with our customers, in our markets, to our shareholders, to our communities, and to our employees?
  • What are the problems that we are the best in the world at solving, who has those problems? Who are our customers?
  • How do we create real value with those customers?
  • How do they want to be engaged? How do we help them learn? How do we help them achieve their goals (which is critical to their ability to buy)?
  • How do we help them become confident in the decisions they have made?
  • Are we creating cultures and workplaces that people want to be part of, that they feel valued, that they learn/develop, in which they can see a future?
  • How do we develop and execute customer engagement strategies consistently, day after day, week after week, …..?

Until we know these things, we can never exploit technology in meaningful ways. We can never extract the value and promise the technologies offer.

Instead we leverage the technologies, to create crap at the speed of light.

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Nov 23 19

Designing “Good Days”

by David Brock

Long time followers will know that I’m obsessed with the concept of micro-improvements. The concept of getting 1% better each day, leads to huge gains over the year.

I’ve reviewed my process on micro improvements in past posts. I sit down at the end of each day and assess myself against roughly 20 questions, for example, “Did I express gratitude to people, Did I do something to create value for my clients.”

The process has been very helpful, both in getting me to be more reflective of what I do/accomplish and in making me more purposeful. But I lapse every once in a while, I continue to look at returning what I do and how I get better each day.

Sometimes I learn from some of the strangest places. Some time ago, I was spending a few hours with a close friend, “Lou.” Lou had worked for me as a Regional Vice President. Lou was, physically, a very big guy, and big in every other way. He had a huge presence–both in leading his team, in pushing back on me and the company, and in the way he engaged our customers. I remember one day in Silicon Valley, Lou was taking the EVP of Fab Operations for a large semiconductor company, and me to lunch. I was sitting in the back seat of his chopped and lowered ’55 Chevy. We couldn’t hear each other in the car because it was so loud, but the three of us were having enormous fun.

Later, Lou was diagnosed with cancer. He worked as long as he could, but at some point, physically, he couldn’t go on. I was in Silicon Valley for a few days, so I asked if we could spend the morning together. It turned out it was about two weeks before he passed away.

Lou wasn’t a person to shy away from tough topics. I sat down with him asking, “How are you doing Lou?” I couldn’t imagine how he was coping both with the physical devastation and the mental challenges.

In his normal blunt manner, he replied, “I have good days and bad days…”

He went on to explain how he had dealt with his cancer. He had gone through the normal stages of grief, but then he confronted himself with the idea of how he wanted to live his life.

He said, “Dave, I’m designing how I spend my days. Today, I’ve designed a good day, I get to spend a few hours with you…. I want to walk around the block and hope you will do that with me…….” (We did, it took us about an hour to go half a mile, but we had a great time.)

Lou realized there was much going on that he couldn’t control, as a result he would have some very bad days. But he also decided to do what he could to control his days and to make them “good.” Every morning, he would develop a plan for what a good day would look like. It might have been visiting with people like me, going to sit in the park, doing stained glass in his garage. But every morning he sat down to design a good day. Every evening he looked at his plan, what he had done, and used that to think about how he would design a good day for the next day.

And he tried to do that every day. Lou was as obsessed with data as I am (how else could he work with me). He reported, “in the past 30 days, I’ve had 23 good days and 7 bad days.”

As I’ve refined my micro improvement process, I’m migrating away from the 20 questions. They don’t have as much meaning as they had. I start Every Sunday, I spend some time thinking about “What’s a good week look like?” I note those goals in my calendar and journal.

Every morning, I think, “What would make today a good day?” I make sure I note those things and time block them in my calendar/to-do list. Whether it’s accomplishing a certain number of prospecting conversations, doing a deep dive into a specific project, walking around the block, going to the gym.

In the evenings, I spend a few minutes looking at my design for a good day, assessing what I achieved and whether it was a “good day.”

And I cycle through this process every week/day—what’s the design for a good week? What’s the design for a good day? Was it a good day? What can I do to make tomorrow a better day?

While Lou was designing his good days for a much more important and profound reason, I learned a lot from him in making my days/weeks more impactful.

Afterword: For those that have been around me, you know I always wear “braces/suspenders” with my suits. Lou was the only other person I knew who did that, but his were much more elegant than mine. At his memorial service, his wife came to me with a big bag, “Lou wanted you to have these…..” Every day I wear a suit, part of my good day is knowing the suspenders came from Lou and I reflect on what I learned from him.

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Nov 18 19

“Even Though I Hate Talking About Price……”

by David Brock

Someone has been prospecting me, trying to provoke me to respond and take a call. In reality, if he spent two minutes looking at our company and doing a little research, he would realize we are a terrible prospect for what he is selling.

But he hasn’t done that, and continues to blindly send emails to me, provoking a conversation.

The first two emails were product pitches. In the first email, he wanted to invite my whole team to a virtual lunch, giving us a demo about his product. Then he went on to talk about his product, without even trying to understand whether we even cared.

His second email was, “Did you receive my first email?” Sigh…..

His third email was, “One more thing to add….” Actually, he had several things to add. First he addressed the 100’s of systems we have to update in making people changes in our company (We only have one very simple system. I called a friend who runs a multi-billion company, they have 5 systems)

But then he went on: “I should mention–even though I hate talking about price–that all our customers report a cost savings with [our product]. I.e. you can get more work done, faster, without having to spend more than you do today….”

Perhaps, I’m being nit-picky, but this sales person is mixing three important concepts: price, cost, productivity. It’s clear, in those two sentences, that he doesn’t understand any of them.

The price, is what the customer pays for your product, whether it is the outright purchase price or the monthly subscription.

The cost includes all the costs in implementing the solution/change. The price of your product is part of that, but all the implementation costs, any staffing, operational costs, other software, equipment, and so forth are all parts of the cost. In the “old days,” we had a concept called Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO, if you like acronyms). The TCO looked at the total costs of the project, not just what we are charging. In many cases, our the price/cost of our product is the smallest part of the cost the customer incurs in implementing a project. Sometimes, even if the price/cost of our solution was $0, the TCO may be prohibitive, preventing us from moving forward.

The real issue, is the business value/case–for example the productivity improvements the customer achieves as a result of implementing the solution.

In this case, if the solution this guy is selling frees up so much time, that we can recapture that time in doing other things, we may have achieved a great productivity improvement. We might need fewer people, reducing TCO, we might be able to divert those people into customer service activities, that improve retention or growth. We might be able to divert those people into generating revenue, which creates a great ROI.

Price never equates to TCO. Price never addresses the business return, productivity improvements, or economic value we produce with the customer.

Somehow, we care about price, consequently making the decision about price. Our customers care about TCO, ROI, Productivity, Business Value. We are far better off talking about what our customers care about, rather than focusing on price.

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