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Dec 5 18

Outcome Based Buying

by David Brock

Regardless how we sell, our customers are trying to achieve one thing when they buy.  They are trying to achieve some very specific outcomes.

Those outcomes may be all over the place—solve a problem, address an opportunity, enable other things to happen.  In the case of selling embedded products, it may be to help customer achieve the goals they seek with the development of their new product.  It may be to help our customer help their customers achieve certain outcomes.

Just as the specific outcomes customers try to achieve will vary, how they measure their success in achieving those outcomes will vary.  It may be financial—cost reduction , revenue enhancement, profit enhancement.  It may be measured in therms of market positioning, share, growth, customer retention  (all of which probably have financial impacts).  It may be more personal, reducing hassle factor, simplification, reducing overwhelm, or other things (again many of these have financial impacts, but sometimes less direct).

Buying is not an outcome, it’s part of a process to achieve an outcome.

Buying, by itself seldom produces an outcome, but is part of a larger effort the customer or problem the customer wants to address to produce an outcome.  For example, if I buy a CRM system, that action does not produce the benefits and value I expect from the implementation of a CRM system.  There’s a whole lot involved in integrating it into our business processes, managing the change to get people to use it, and so forth.

People don’t buy just for the sake of buying.  Even procurement.

Sellers focus on outcomes, as well.  But too often, those outcomes have nothing to do with the outcomes the buyer seeks to achieve.  Most often, the outcome a seller seeks to achieve is getting the order, or retaining the customer, or growing the business.

Sadly, too often when I speak to sellers, they don’t understand the outcome the customer seeks to produce.  Or worse, they don’t care.   The majority focus on the outcome they want to produce–get the order.

Sometimes sellers have a broader perspective, focusing on the customer buying process or journey–but often that still fails to connect, completely, to the customer outcomes.

The irony is, sellers never achieve or sustain their desired outcomes until the customer achieves theirs.


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Dec 4 18

Is Technology Hurting Or Helping Our Ability To Sell And Drive Revenue?

by David Brock

I was invited to participate in a roundtable on the topic, “Is technology hurting or helping our ability to sell and drive revenue?”  It’s a fascinating topic, my response is an unequivocal YES!!!

Before I go further, I have proclaim my obligatory fascination and bias toward all things technology.  Most of my career has been working for or with leading technology organizations, spanning electronic components/devices, hardware/systems, licensed/cloud based software, all things communications including devices through the operating companies, through to analytics and AI.  I’ve been on the founding teams of several very successful software and analytics companies.  To further buff my image, I’m a total geek.  I’m one of those that’s in line at 4:00 am waiting to be one of the first buyers of every new geeky technology.

But the issue really isn’t a technology issue, any more than asking, “Does pencil and paper help or hinder our ability to sell and drive revenue?”

The issue is how we exploit the technologies, incorporating them into our customer engagement, sales and marketing strategies.  By itself, technology offers nothing but promise and possibility.  As implemented, too often technology enables us to create crap at the speed of light.

Technology, as a replacement to things that technology does far better than human beings is powerful.  As we look at transactional/order taking selling processes, increasingly exploitation of technology creates greater value/convenience for customers and has the potential for significantly decreasing costs.  Stated differently, if you are an order taker, you should be looking for a different career.

We have decades of electronic ordering including EDI, through web based shopping sites/shopping carts, to chatbots helping advise/manipulate us to making certain purchasing decisions.

Already, 10’s of thousands of sales jobs have been displaced by the increasing use of technology for order fulfillment, transactional selling processes.  10’s-100’s of thousands more of these jobs will be displaced in the coming 5-10 years.

But now let’s look at the application of technologies to complex buying/selling processes.  It offers huge promise, in our own company it has enabled us to more quickly and more deeply research markets, customers, individuals.  We are leveraging technologies to recognize patterns in markets, organizations, and functions within organizations.  I get daily alerts that enable me to more accurately reach out and engage the right customers, with the right insight/messages, at the right time.  Within our own company and a small number of our clients we have seen technology enable huge results and dramatically improve productivity.

Unfortunately, I have to say that most of the applications of technology I see actually hurt our abilities to drive sales and revenue.  But it’s not the fault of the tool, but how we exploit–or fail to exploit the promise of the tool.

Some examples:

Marketing automation platforms have been around for at least a decade.  They provide us very rich capability for segmenting, targeting, personalizing our messaging to our customers.  They can tell us, “Based on Dave’s history with us, we should reach him with content about these issues/topics, but not send him materials about these issues and topics.  We should also send him materials at this frequency, and we should make sure to call his company Partners In EXCELLENCE, not Excellenc (our web URL).

And this is the most basic application of marketing automation technology.

While these platforms have tremendous promise, very few organizations actually exploit it.  Instead, it’s far easier to send everything to everyone.  As an example, this morning, in the space of 75 minutes, I got three different emails from the same Sales Enablement platform giant.  They were presenting 3 different things, only one of which was slightly relevant to me.  The others had absolutely no applicability because they were for applications and businesses very different than ours.  This company should have “known” me better, we’ve done business with them and have had lots of engagements of varying types.

We see data supporting this.  Email data–opens, click throughs, forwards are plummeting.  To get the same number of responses, volumes of electronic garbage have skyrocketed.

Other platforms have the same problem.  I can’t imagine a sales person or organization not using CRM.  Our own company would struggle if we didn’t have CRM.  Yet, CRM compliance/utilization remains a huge issue.

We have all incorporated new technology language into our vocabularies–I suppose because it’s modern and cool, but we talk glibly about “sales stacks,” and get into the frat party comparisons, “mine is bigger than yours….”  But when we audit utilization, people aren’t using them.

Other technologies–not because of the technology, but the way we’ve implemented them are driving customers away, rather than enhancing our ability to reach and engage customers.  Power diallers and related technologies are supposed to help us actually reach customers and talk to people.  Instead, we have managed to train prospects and customers not to pick up the phone.  Do a random survey of your colleagues, customers, and friends.  How many answer phone calls from numbers they don’t recognize–particularly those with the area code and exchange exactly matching yours?

Then there is the “distraction effect” of technology.  Countless studies show how just the visible presence of our mobile devices create micro distractions.  Cumulatively, these distractions accumulate to hours in a day.

We think–or rather don’t think–about technology correctly.  We mis-apply it, using it as a crutch, not a tool, in effect, dumbing down our sales organizations.  We are fast losing the ability to think critically, to listen, to engage in deep conversations.

We have technology vendors selling great technology very poorly.  For example, one vendor tells me all I have to do is ask 4 questions in the discovery process or that my introductory pitch has to be 9.1 minutes, not 11.4 minutes.  Doing these cause us to win–the data clearly shows this.

I tried this recently, I met with a prospect, I planned my call to focus on 4 discovery questions.  Carefully crafted, rechecking the math, I asked, “Hi, my name is Dave, what’s yours?”  “I see you’ve been having cold weather recently, how’s it impacted you?”  “What did you think about the game last night?”  “Are you the decision-maker?”

You can guess how impactful that call was.  I left confused, I had asked 4 questions, that should have been a slam dunk for a win!

Technology is a great excuse for failure.  It’s all too easy to blame the new tool, rather than our inept implementation and utilization of the tool–it’s never our fault, it’s the tool’s.

You know I can go on and on, but I’ll stop here.

The problem isn’t the technology.  Technology can enable us to do great things to drive sales and revenue.  It also can do the opposite.

The real issue is the people side of technology—how do we sell it, how do we use it, are we using it to maximum impact?  It’s all the thinking that underlies the tools we choose and our strategies to exploit them to achieve the goals we want.  It’s hard work, there are no shortcuts, and too often it is simply not done.

As had been said so many times before, “A fool with a tool/technology is still a fool.”


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Dec 3 18

What Do Icebergs Have To Do With Selling?

by David Brock

Yeah, I know it’s a tired analogy, but icebergs are still useful in thinking about marketing and selling.

We all know about icebergs, the part of the iceberg we see is dwarfed by the part of the iceberg that’s under the water and we don’t see.

We face the same with our marketing and sales efforts.  Our focus is on what we see–customers actively engaged in the buying process.  And typically. we see them after they have been looking at make a change for some time.  We all know the data–the customer is 57-90% through their buying process before they engage sales.

We focus all our efforts and most of our money on the part that is visible–the tip or the iceberg.  But we ignore the opportunity below the surface, the stuff we don’t see, but is still there.  What we see are those organizations/people who recognize they need to change and have embarked on a buying process.

There’s some that’s just a little below the surface, some number of people/organizations beginning to realize they may need to change.  They may not yet be in a buying process, but are thinking about the issues.  They may be looking at what others are doing, hearing things at conferences, looking at things marketing may be sending them which get them to think about the issue.

But what about those that are deeper, where the real mass of the iceberg is?  They aren’t aware they may be missing an opportunity.  They may not be aware there are things they should change, that they could do better.  For the most part, they are happy/satisfied with the status quo, doing what they always have been doing.

Our marketing and other types of awareness programs will not reach these people–even if we are sending things to them.  They don’t pay attention to the normal outreach because they don’t believe they have reason to.  They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

This represents the bulk of the market, the huge mass that composes most of the iceberg.  The part of the market that represents the real opportunity, but is unlikely to respond to our normal outreach.

How do we get to that big part of the iceberg?  How do we get to those that are beyond our normal outreach, but should be thinking about the issues and driving changes in their organizations?

Sales people, particularly sales people that can speak to customer/industry issues with real insight, become the driver in this process.  Helping customers understand what they don’t know, helping them discover there may be an opportunity to change and improve, moves them to the visible part of the iceberg or that part just below the surface.  Not all of them will be interested–at least immediately, but we can incite some of them to change.

Why limit ourselves to just the visible market opportunity?  We can accelerate our impact and growth by looking below what’s visible.


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Dec 2 18

What If Every Electronic Outreach Cost $.50?

by David Brock

In the “old days,”  (about 20-30 years ago), my VP’s of marketing used to come to me for approval on major marketing campaigns.  In those days, direct mail/direct marketing was still a primary communication channel.  Marketing campaigns could be pretty expensive, there was design, printing, postage (they were always stamped because people opened stamped mail more then metered and trashed bulk mail).  Getting/developing the right list was critical–it was harder to get good contacts/addresses, and because of the expense, marketing  wanted to make sure they were targeting precisely the right people, not wasting mailings on people that weren’t in the campaign sweet spot.

As a result of this expense, I would always challenge the marketing team, “Is this the best way to spend this money?  Could we spend it differently to get a better result?  What is the impact if we fail to achieve our goals?”  The marketing teams were always relatively thoughtful because these campaign costs were a relatively large part of their budget.  Plus the results had an impact on their success for new budget requests.

Fast forward to today, everything is electronic (though some direct mail is making a comeback because it stands out as different).  As a result, everything is free—or near free.  As a result, behaviors in marketing and sales have changed.  Because we have no printing costs, no postage, handling, we can implement campaigns with virtually no budget impact.  We can send things to thousands or millions of people and the incremental cost is virtually zero.  We can send things often as we want, or with as many campaigns as we want to as many people as we want.

In the old days, I might have gotten an informational piece maybe once a month–and I was a C level guy, so I was on everyone’s target list.  Today, everyone wants to communicate with me daily, often several times a day.  Whether it’s relevant or not, they want to reach out.  And because it costs virtually nothing to touch me and millions of others, we can do it as much as we want.  And because it’s free, they want to communicate with me as much as possible.

As a result, much of the thoughtfulness, design, testing that I used to see in marketing campaigns back then, is non existent.  People don’t understand when I pose the questions I posed to my old marketing teams.  Yeah, I know people supposedly do A/B testing, but if they are, the results aren’t clear in the 100’s of legitimate marketing messages I get, daily.

In the old days, response rates, “opens” used to be in the teens or even higher–at least for first class mail campaigns.  But still on a cost per response basis, the cost was dear so my marketing teams tried to be thoughtful about who, what, when, how, how frequently they conducted campaigns.

Today, response rates have fallen to fractions of percents–not to worry, we can just ramp the volume/frequency up by 10, 100, 1000 times to get the numbers we need.  After all the cost is near zero.  (As a side note, there is a new cost or burden, unfortunately, that’s borne by the victims–I mean recipients of our outreach.)

It causes me to reflect.  How would things change, if each electronic outreach cost $0.50–or whatever the cost of a first class stamp is in your country?  Would we still be sending the same volumes?  Would we rethink our strategies?  Would we be more careful about what we sent, to who, the likelihood of their responding and acting?

Would our results be better because the costs were forcing us to be more thoughtful about what we are doing?  Would we actually be accomplishing more by doing less?

If I were a CRO, CMO, or CEO, I might consider imposing a “tax” on every electronic communication sent by marketing or sales.  Each email, each social exchange, each tweet (well maybe I’d use postcard rates for tweets and texts).   I would ask that each program be justified on the basis of $0.50 per outreach per person.

I suspect we might accomplish more and the customers might be consuming more.

And then there are the phones.  In the old days, a local phone call cost………  A long distance phone call cost……..



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