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Mar 13 17

If You Don’t Understand Your Numbers, You Don’t Know How To Improve Performance

by David Brock

Sales and marketing are data/numbers driven, at least they should be and sometimes we pretend they are.  But too often, sales people and managers don’t really understand the data/numbers.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Dave you are really off base here, of course we understand them, we know we have to make our numbers!”

Too often, however, we aren’t looking at the right data/numbers or we aren’t looking at them in the right way.

Conversations sometimes go like this:

Me:  “What do you have to do to make your $5M goal?”

Salesperson:  “I got to sell a lot of stuff!”

Me:  “What does that mean, how many deals to you have to work?”

Salesperson:  “Enough to make my number!  Aren’t you paying attention Dave?”

Or I may be talking to managers:

Me:  “I see you’ve set daily call goals of 50 calls per person.  How did you come up with that number?”

Manager:  “It seems like an aggressive goal.  I’ve always believed sales people need to be on the phone calling!”

Me:  “How do you know it’s enough or maybe it’s too many?”

Manager:   “Good point, I’m going to make it 100 per day…..”

And round and round we go………

In order to achieve our goals, we need to understand the “numbers” that underlie our business fundamentals.  We need to make sure we are tracking the right numbers.  For example, to make our quotas, how many deals do we have to be working?  What’s the average value of those deals?  What’s the sales cycle?  What’s our win rate? How many high quality leads to we have to be qualifying?  What is a quality lead?

Every activity we undertake in selling must produce an outcome, those outcomes, when linked together produce the ultimate outcome—an order.  We need to understand those critical outcomes at each stage of the process.  We need to understand the relationships between each of those steps and the desired outcomes:  X leads produce Y qualified high quality opportunities which produce Z closed orders totaling revenue of A………

Simple, we all know this.  Some of us even apply this logic to establishing these goals and tracking performance.  Unfortunately, too many don’t.

Sure, they’ll give me numbers, but they don’t understand what the numbers mean and what it takes to produce the right numbers.

To understand our numbers, we have to get deep into what they mean–because it’s understanding those that drive results.

For example, I may know the magic number to produce a healthy pipeline is “50 MQLs a week.”  But what does that mean?  But what’s a quality MQL (Or any other number you choose)?  What are the qualities, characteristics of those, so that I know I’m counting the right things.  It’s actually quite easy to build a pipeline of 100 opportunities.  I might fool myself into thinking, “hitting my goals is a slam-dunk.”  At the end of the month/quarter/year, I find I haven’t hit my goals—but I have enough opportunities, what gives?

Knowing our numbers is the critical first step.  But stopping there just enables you to prove that math works.  To really understand the numbers we have to get under them, understanding what they mean and what creates them

If we don’t understand our numbers and what they mean, we have no hope of managing performance.



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Mar 12 17

It Ain’t Easy, Those Days Are Long Past!

by David Brock

Sales isn’t easy!  If it was, it could be totally automated and our customers and companies wouldn’t need sales people.  We continue to see those parts of selling carved away, with more effective and efficient channels being leveraged—as they should be!

We don’t create value in those areas, we only create cost—for our customers and our companies.

While everyone, from the entry level sales person to top sales executives, readily acknowledge the complexities and challenges our customers face and the complexity and challenges we face on engaging them, what I continue to see is people and organizations pursuing the easy and simplistic.

People rush like lemmings to the latest new-new thing.  Whether it’s social selling, the latest greatest technology, the 12 new ways of getting customers to open emails, the 15 new ways to close the order, the latest science behind high volume and high velocity, or the ease with which we can inundate/broadcast via the web.

It seems to be human nature to opt for easy/quick, or to address symptoms rather than doing the hard work of really understanding, learning, identifying the most critical issues and changing.

In many ways, too often, the latest techniques/tools/technologies promoted by self proclaimed gurus, experts, technology vendors are a little like a “sugar high.”

We all know that spike of energy we get when we down a soft drink or take a bite of candy.  It rushes to our blood streams, we get a surge of energy and go forward.  Inevitably, that rush dissipates.  Then we seek another sugar high, and another, and another.

We learn these sugar high’s don’t have a sustained impact.  We learn, in fact, over time they actually do more damage than they do good.

Seeking the easy and simplistic in sales is like seeking a sugar high.  It may produce a short term bump in the results we produce.  But quickly, we find it’s seldom sustainable.  As the “high” diminishes, we seek another and another.  We see short term impacts (bloggers blog, speakers speak, pundits pundit, vendors make case studies), but it’s seldom sustainable.

The concept permeates our vocabularies, as we continually search for “quick hits.”

And over time, we often find these approaches do more damage than they do good.

We lose our ability or willingness to do the hard work, we don’t do the research, we don’t prepare, we don’t really engage our customers in understanding their goals and problems, we don’t challenge them to think differently, we don’t help them learn, we don’t know how to create and co-create value.  We lose our ability to think critically, to adapt, to change.

We double down on what we have always done, even if these things no longer produce results.  It’s far easier to do those things, than to figure out what’s changed, how we need to change, and actually change.

And the results show it!  Both in terms of the declining percent of sales people and organizations making plan, the feedback/avoidance we see from customer, and any number of measures.

At the risk of over using my “sugar high” analogy, we know how hard it is to break the sugar addiction.  But we also know the results of adopting a healthier life style–what it does for our health, energy, ability to engage, and ability to create.

The same thing happens when we stop focusing on the easy, quick answers, when we start looking at fundamentals, addressing the tough issues in substantive way, committing to a “sales healthy” (perhaps customer healthy) approach to producing results and sustaining performance.

We see others who have done this, those that are recognized leaders and have the ability to sustain that leadership.  Ironically, it is the consistent top performers that never take the shortcuts, never succumb to the fads and fashions, but do the hard work that produces results year after year.  Yes they do adopt new methods, approaches and tools, but it’s grounded in the basics that drive success, not as a quick fix.

Easy and simplistic don’t work over time.  They are damaging.  It’s time we stop wasting time on these and do the hard work of producing sustained results.  It’s time we start pushing back on those that focus only on the easy, they aren’t helping us, they may be harming us.

Just commit to doing the work!



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Mar 9 17

Not Knowing What We Don’t Know

by David Brock

Too often, both our work and that of our customers focuses on learning or knowing what we don’t know.

We know customers do much of their research digitally–according to research they may be 57-90% through their buying process and 94% of customers do some level of digital research or self education (I think it should be 100%).

For example, if I want to improve my email marketing, all I have to do is type that into Google, and I get 12.7M results in 0.52 seconds.

Possibly I want to leverage social selling effectively, I get 28.6M results in less than a second.

Or I’m a CEO/CFO and I want to improve cashflow, I get 27.1M results in 0.77 seconds.

As long as we and our customers know what we are looking for, letting our fingers walk through Google enables us to get more information and data than we could ever consume.  We can self educate endlessly, perhaps narrowing in on some solutions that resonate with what we think the issue is.

But what happens if we ask the wrong questions?  What if there are other questions we should be asking but may be missing?

Or how do we decide which pieces of the overwhelming amount of information we can access that we should pay attention to?  The information most relevant to us and our problems.

Analytics can help, based on our past interactions and profiles, it narrows searches down to what it thinks might be relevant to us or people like us. For example, if “the system” knows I’m a procurement manager in a semiconductor company, it will narrow my cashflow search down  from 27.1M results to 284K results specific to improving cashflow in semiconductor procurement.  With more information or watching my search history, it will narrow things down even more, theoretically being more helpful in my self education process.

This does present a problem when you want to “think outside the box.”  The nature of these systems is they tend to force you into narrower and narrower boxes, ultimately getting the same information everyone else in the same function does, so we all end up behaving similarly,   hmmmmmm………

But the problem with all of this, is that it is based on some level of awareness about problems and challenges we are facing.  It requires us to diagnose, at some level, what we are trying to do, seeking to self educate based on this self diagnosis.  Anyone trying to diagnose their health strictly through WebMD knows the pitfalls this creates.

Have we diagnosed things properly?

Have we asked the right questions?

What questions should we be asking?

Are we looking in the right places for answers?

All of this becomes very troubling for our customers.  While they are trying to be efficient, or perhaps they are just trying to avoid pesky sales people, they may be missing things, they may be going down the wrong path.

Digital research doesn’t answer the customer’s unasked questions.   It doesn’t care if the customer is asking the right questions.  But it will always provide information and data.

But there’s a bigger problem.

It’s the problem of not knowing what we don’t know.

Customers simply may be unaware.  They may be prisoners of their own experience.  They don’t know what they don’t know and need to be disrupted, perhaps creating the awareness of what they don’t know so they can start learning.

These are tough issues, but critical to our customers’ and our success.  Our glibness about social selling and digital research tend to blind both our customers and us about the critical shortcomings in succumbing to the “let your fingers walk through Google.”

These are areas of concern to all of us–but we offer leadership and great value when we are able to confront customers with these questions helping them find the answers they need.

What do your customers know they don’t know, how do we help them fill the gaps?

What do your customers don’t know what they don’t know, how do you help them discover these?


Afterword:  These questions are equally challenging for us and our own organizations.



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Mar 8 17

Are You Really Different?

by David Brock

We know the importance of differentiating ourselves in attempting to win business.

We try to do this at our web sites, often posting comparisons and charts showing how we have more features and functions than the alternatives.  Too often, we think differentiation is about checking more feature boxes, having a richer product, than the competition.

Web sites are filled with pages of, “Our Value Proposition.”  Only when you compare competitors side by side, they say the same things—we improve your results, reduce your costs, improve quality, Blah, Blah, Blah……

Sales people go through endless demos, showing the capabilities of their products and comparing to others, “Our UI is easier and more intuitive (perhaps to them, but all of them confuse me),”  “You can change the background image on our screens……” and the list of differentiators continue.

Then there’s the ultimate differentiator too many sales people fall back on, “We’re cheaper!”

But what’s it look like from the customers’ points of view?

CEB data indicates, *86% of B2B buyers find no real difference between suppliers.”

They could flip a coin and any solution would satisfy their needs.

Quickly, we come to the conclusion, differentiation is seldom about what we sell.  When any solution will do the job, what do we do to get the customer to select us?

The only way we differentiate ourselves is by putting the customer, the individuals and organizations, front and center to what we do.

What specifically are they trying to achieve and why?  What’s keeping them from getting there?  What happens if they don’t change?  Why is this important to them and their futures?

These issues tend to focus on the outcomes the customer is trying to achieve.  Understanding what is most critical enables us to focus our conversations on those issues they care about—-“No I really don’t care that you click more features boxes than your competition or you offer a wider range of colors…..”

But this isn’t the only place customers struggle and where we can differentiate ourselves.  Our customers struggle to buy, they struggle to define their problem, the outcomes they want to achieve.  They struggle with aligning the diverse agendas and priorities of the 6.8 + people involved in the buying process.  They struggle with what their problem solving process should be—after all, they don’t do this–at least for these problems, every day.

The struggle because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Here’s a huge opportunity to set ourselves apart.  While your competitors are polishing up their demos and their product comparisons, you set yourself apart by teaching them and collaborating in solving their problem.  This is where you create some of your greatest value and differentiation.

Alternatively, customers don’t know they should be changing, they may be stuck in running their businesses the way they always have, they may not recognize better ways of doing things or opportunities they may be missing.  They become prisoners of their own experience, failing to see how their customers, markets, industries, and competition is changing.

Sales people create huge value in helping disrupt our customers’ thinking.  We help them realize they must change and commit to that change.  Your competition, focused on features and functions, will always miss these opportunities.  But those who engage the customer in thinking differently and committing to change differentiate themselves in ways that few competitors can meet.

How we differentiate ourselves is always centered on the customer and what they need to do to differentiate themselves, growing as businesses.  What are you doing to set yourself apart?



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