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Feb 1 19

Training And The Forgetting Curve

by David Brock

Not long ago, I wrote a post, Sales Training And The “Forgetting Curve.” It’s stimulated more questions and conversation than I anticipated.

I’d encourage you to read the article, but the basic idea is that 80% of skills we seek to develop through training are forgotten within about 90 days (Actually the forgetting curve shows a much more aggressive forgetting schedule.)

The thing that has surprised me about the conversation, is most of it has centered around, what we are investing in training and how to get the most of the investment out of training. It is a time/cost argument.

What hasn’t come up, but is, I think, the most critical aspect of the discussion is the opportunity cost! That is, we are training people and developing their skills for a reason.

We want them to use those skills for a purpose to create business results. Whether it’s selling a new product, whether it’s filling the pipeline with more qualified opportunities, whether it’s increasing share of account—we are training them to achieve some results.

So the real impact of the forgetting curve is not about the sunk investment in training, but the lost opportunity because people aren’t using these new skills to produce the expected results!

Sales leadership should not invest in any training or skills development unless there is a reinforcement plan that sales managers are committed and accountable for implementing.

Sales enablement and training vendors are doing their customers a disservice unless they insist a reinforcement program is in place and management has committed to their role in executing it. (Yes, there are all sorts of ways we can leverage distance learning for reinforcement, but managers must have an active role.)

The issue with training, skills development and the forgetting curve is not the investment we make in those programs. It’s the “why” behind putting these programs in place. We are doing it to drive business results. If we aren’t reinforcing and coaching, we are not producing the results we had committed to.

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Jan 30 19

What’s The Most Pressing Part Of The Sales Process Today?

by David Brock

Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend and colleague. He asked me the question, “Dave, what to you think is the biggest problem area for B2B sales people in generating business today?”

I’m a little slow, I asked, “George, what do you mean?”

He responded, “Well if you look at much of the press and social media, it’s prospecting or top of the pipeline, lead to opportunity conversion…..”

“But,” he went on, “some say it’s the inability to navigate the selling/buying process on qualified deals….”

“Others say it’s the inability to articulate and defend a differentiated value proposition…..”

He continued, “Some think it’s all about ABM, account planning and development….”

“Which of those do you think is the single most important thing to drive huge improvements in sales results?”

After I thought about it, I responded, “George, the real issue is you have to do all of them, all the time! Anytime your focus becomes unbalanced, for example you spend a disproportionate amount of time on the top of the pipeline, it will ripple through and impact performance across everything.”

George, pushed back on me, “Dave, you are really out of alignment with most of the thinking out there. Look at all these ‘sales experts’ saying tope of the pipeline prospecting is the single most important thing for sales right now?”

I don’t disagree with George. Many friend and colleagues focus most of their effort on the top of the pipeline. Most of the pipelines I look at are anemic, people need more opportunities, so prospecting seems to be in need of a lot of attention.

But then, one must ask the question, “Why are our pipelines so anemic?” It may be that we have lousy deal win rates, let’s say 10%. That means, if we need to close 50 deals to make our number, our pipeline has to have 500 deals. That’s a lot deals, trying to fill the pipeline, knowing you may have to prospect 10 potentials, to qualify 1 means you have to prospect 5000 potentials.

You have to have really good prospecting skills and devote a huge amount of time to prospecting to try to keep that pipeline filled–then you wonder if you have enough time to work those 500 deals in the pipeline. Prospecting is a huge issue, in this case. And it’s something that you have to continue doing every day, every month, every quarter, every year.

But what if we looked at it differently, what if we chose to solve a different problem rather than prospecting to keep the pipeline filled. What if we focused on win rates? What if by some magic, we could get win rates up to 50%. That means we only need 100 deals in our pipeline, and we would only need to prospect 1000 potentials. Prospecting is still important, but we don’t have to go for the numbers, we are likely to do a higher quality job of prospecting, making more out of each opportunity we qualify.

Or if we could defend value more effectively, reducing our discounting, improving our win rates. Then by being better at deal execution, I need a smaller pipeline, and don’t need as much prospecting to keep a balanced funnel.

Or let’s go back to the original case, where I have a 10% win rate. Think of the opportunities we are squandering and the opportunity cost to our companies because the win rate is so low. And one might surmise, if you are that bad at managing qualified deals, then you probably will suck at prospecting as well.

See, the problem with much of this thinking is that it addresses the obvious issue, with the obvious solution. For example, anemic pipelines need more prospecting. But it treats these issues in isolation, and that leads to flawed diagnosis and thinking.

Sales is not a job where I can do part of it some days or just the parts I like. If I’m to be successful, I have to do the whole job, all the time.

In selling, everything we do is connected with everything else. One cannot isolate one area, saying this is the most important thing to focus on. We have to constantly look at all aspects, of the job, trying to figure out how best to tilt the numbers in our favor.

Sorry I couldn’t do better George, but it’s all important.

Afterword: To better understand how all the pieces/parts of selling fit together, email me for a free copy of our Sales Execution Framework.

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Jan 30 19


by David Brock

Authenticity has become a buzzword tossed around social media too casually. We aspire to be authentic, we claim we are authentic. Or, at least, I’ve never met someone who claims to be inauthentic–though I suspect many of those who claim authenticity but are actually inauthentic.

What is authenticity? To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, I know it when I experience it.

Sometime, I think we confuse authenticity with our style or our personal branding. We may present ourselves a certain way, we may have a persona we present to others, for example the language we use, how we dress, the enthusiasm or manner in which we communicate to others.

In fact, virtually all the elements of style or personal branding, probably aren’t good surrogates for authenticity. Authentic and inauthentic people can present themselves with the same passion or excitement or even conviction. They can use similar language, they can act in similar ways. They can both appear to be equally sincere or insincere.

I don’t believe those are indicators or authenticity. For example, we tend to associate being passionate about something as authentic. Yet an inauthentic person can present themselves with the same passion.

Authenticity is really about character, it is about that which underlies what an individual says or does. It is about who we really are, not necessarily who we want people to believe we are.

Inevitably, when people try to portray themselves in a manner that is inconsistent with who they really are, it becomes a challenge to both the person in sustaining the facade, and to those around the individual who see the cracks, the inconsistencies–perhaps coming to not trust that individual.

I think one of the foundations of authenticity is personal mastery. As Senge comments in the Fifth Discipline, “Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.”

, “Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.”

The degree to which one seeks to be authentic, is impacted by their continued quest to learn and develop. It is impacted by their ability to be open to differing points of view, constantly trying to see things and people for what/who they are, not what want them to be.

Stephen Joseph summarizes qualities of authentic and inauthentic people in his Psychology Today article:

Authentic people:

  1. Have realistic perceptions of reality.
  2. Are accepting of themselves and other people.
  3. Are thoughtful.
  4. Have a non-hostile sense of humor.
  5. Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  6. Are open to learning from their mistakes.
  7. Understand their motivations – they are true to themselves.

By contrast, inauthentic people:

  1. Are self deceptive and unrealistic in their perceptions of reality.
  2. Look to others for approval and to feel valued.
  3. Are judgemental of other people.
  4. Do not think things through clearly.
  5. Have a hostile sense of humor.
  6. Are unable to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  7. Are not open to learning from their mistakes.
  8. Do not understand their motivations — their defensiveness and self deception prevents them from being true to themselves.

Clearly, each of us has elements of authenticity and inauthenticity, which is why the concept of continuous focus on personal mastery is so important if we choose to seek authenticity.

But I am left with one question, “Is an authentic person necessarily a ‘good’ person?”

Afterword: My thanks to Keenan for stirring up my thinking about this.

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Jan 29 19

The Buyer’s Journey, One Step At A Time

by David Brock

Most sales people focus on the outcome of the deal. They want to get to the close and an order as fast as possible. Managers constantly reinforce this rush to completion in their “coaching conversations,” by asking, “When are we going to get this deal?” or “We need this to close this quarter!”

Everything we do is focused on jumping to the end of the buying process. We start pitching our solution before we even understand what the customer is trying to achieve. We try to present the value the customer might get, before we understand what the customer values.

We do what we do almost independently of the customer’s buying journey, as a result, too often we get out of step with the customer. We want the customer to be in one place of their buying journey (making a decision), inevitably the customer is at a completely different place in their journey.

The more we are out of step with the customer, the greater the chasm we create between the customer and us. As a result, our probability of success plummets.

Simplistically, if we look at a classic buying stage model, for every stage of misalignment, our probability of winning reduces by 20-25%. For example, in a 3 stage process, if the customer is in stage 1 (problem determination, needs identification) and we are in stage 3 (presenting our solution), our probability of winning is reduced by 20-50%!

The customer has to go through all the steps. In fact, they will wander, they will need to go back, retracing their steps. They will get lost, perhaps not knowing what the next step is.

We create the greatest value with the customer when we are aligned with them. When we are in lock-step with them, helping them move through their buying journey–step by step.

They need to go through all the steps, even though we want them to skip to the end. It’s part of their learning process, it’s how they align themselves around what they want to achieve, how to do it, why they are doing it in the first place.

The more steps they skip (and they may be tempted to skip steps), the greater risk they create for themselves–either in making a decision or in implementing a solution.

It’s the buyer’s journey, we have to be prepared to navigate it with them. If we are to be successful, if we are to create the greatest value at every step of their journey, we have to be helping them at each step, we have to help them navigate these steps as effectively as they can, we have to help them move from step to step as rapidly as they are capable.

Too often, we focus on our journey and are not prepared to accompany the customer on theirs.

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