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Aug 12 19

Do Your Salespeople Really Understand Their Numbers?

by David Brock

Every year, I meet with thousands of sales people and sales managers. Inevitably the conversations focus on sales performance and achieving their goals. We try to help them understand the leverage points in achieving their goals, and how that drives their focus and activities.

We start talking about the “numbers.” No, not quotas, but the leading numbers that indicate whether they are doing enough of the right things, with the right people, at the right time.

In the conversations, we end up talking a lot about pipeline, prospecting, and select activity metrics.

Most are very polite, as we talk about healthy pipeline metrics and key activities, they nod their heads, they acknowledge what I’m talking about. They say they know the importance of understanding the numbers, they will point to reports they get from their CRM systems, showing the “numbers.”

We talk about healthy pipelines, usually someone says, “Our managers say we have to have 3 times coverage (or whatever the manager has said.).”

Here’s where the trouble starts, I ask, “Why? How do you know 3 times coverage is right for you?”

Blank stares, even from the manager that declared 3 times coverage is right.

We dive deeper into the numbers, talking about win rates, average deal size, number of deals required for a healthy pipeline, sales cycle/deal velocity, number of new deals qualified, weekly prospecting activity and so forth.

During this time, people are either nodding their heads politely, but more often, there are a lot of blank stares.

Then I do some sort of exercise. I ask them to look at their own numbers and to identify the one thing that provides them the greatest leverage in achieving their goals. For example, should the focus on prospecting, increasing their win rates, increasing average deal size, decreasing sales cycle?

At that point, panic sets in, people don’t know what to do. They pretend to be busy figuring these things out. There is usually some manager saying “You have to do it all.!” (WRONG!)

All the conversations are the same, even with many managers, we talk the metrics/numbers that are the leading performance metrics, people nod their heads politely, making comments about the numbers. But they really don’t understand them, how they interact, and how/which to leverage to drive their performance.

I realized, that we provide all sorts of reporting about the “numbers” and people’s attainment against those goals. But they don’t really understand what they mean or how to leverage them to their advantage. They look at the monthly reports, if the numbers have gone up, they and their managers are happy, if the numbers have gone down, managers say, “Do more!”

What happens is we present the data, but they don’t really understand what it means, as a result, they don’t own the data/numbers, and struggle figuring out what they should do (this applies to 90+% of sales people and 80+% of sales managers.

Recently, I was talking to a coaching client about this issue. He had seen the same thing with his team. While they talked all the time about the numbers, they really didn’t understand them. His solution is brilliant!

For three months, he had each person on the team developing the numbers and reports for themselves. Prior to that, he gave them a systems generated report. But he realized they would never understand what drove the numbers until they started developing them for themselves.

They had to do the work to figure out their win rates, their average deal sizes, the sales cycles, the healthy pipeline metrics, the number of new opportunities they should qualify every month and so forth.

He coached them through the process, but they had to put together the reports themselves. In doing this, they started understanding what drove the numbers, and how they interacted. While intellectually, they had understood the importance of win rates, they suddenly saw that if they increased their win rates, the number of opportunities required to have a healthy pipeline would decrease, or the number of new opportunities they had to add to the pipeline would decrease, or the number of prospecting calls would decrease.

The magic in helping them understand the numbers was forcing them to figure them out themselves. This process helped them understand what they mean and where they could shift them.

If you think about it, he was leveraging some basic principles in learning. The way we build skills in elementary and secondary education is not by giving students the answers, but by giving them the tools/practice to figure out the answers themselves.

If we want our people to understand the numbers and how to leverage them to drive performance, they have to learn what they mean and how to put them together. We have to give them the skills to think about what they mean.

Some would argue, “that takes too much time, we can just automate the reports that give them the data/answers.”

I can understand that, but if they don’t really understand what the numbers mean and what to do about them, then the time we are saving by giving them the reports is meaningless. They are unable to figure out what to do when presented the numbers.

My own personal experience reinforces this idea. People are often amazed by what I “see” in looking at pipeline reports. They have been looking at the same reports for years, but I can look at virtually any report and begin seeing things they haven’t understood. It’s not because I have any particularly better insight, but it’s because so often, I’ve had to put together the numbers and reports myself. As a result, I intuitively understand how to develop the number, how they each interrelate, and where we can get leverage.

Our tools and reporting systems do a lot to save us time. However, if we don’t really understand what they mean, if we don’t understand how we develop “the numbers,” or how the related to each other, we will never be able to understand the key levers in driving performance.

Do you understand your numbers?

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Aug 11 19

The Lowest Form Of Sales Management

by David Brock

Sadly, too many managers seem to mindlessly echo the same meaningless mantra from some hopelessly outdated sales manager playbook. The answer to every performance issue seems to be simply, “Do more!”

The “more” that’s identified is usually more of something that has worked in the past, without assessing whether it is still the right course of action. As a result, we get mindless guidance like, “Just do more prospecting,” “Just get more opportunities in your pipeline,” “Win more,” “Spend more time [doing something],” and on and on.

And when those don’t work, we know the answer, “Just do more……..”

Inevitably, one runs into a limit people’s capacity to do more. Managers have the pat answer for that, as well, “We need more technology,” “We need more people,” “We need more funding/resources….”

Sadly, “more” is usually not the answer, or at least the best answer.

Too often, what we have always done is no longer effective, so doing more is wasted effort and resources.

A better starting point, seems to be “Do better.” Sadly, too often, managers don’t focus on this, because suggesting “Do better,” is tough. It means we have to drill down to really understand performance and what is impacting each individual on our team. We have to understand what “better” means, coaching and developing our people on how each can do better.

To advise, “Do better,” we have to diagnose. That requires thinking, analysis, and engagement with each person on the team. It’s tough work! The answers aren’t easy or obvious–if they were, we’d already be doing them.

But “Do better” has magic leverage. It helps us maximize the results and outcomes of everything we currently do. It makes us much more effective.

Inevitably by doing things better, we free up time to do more. But we accomplish more than if we just simply started with “Do more.” Stated differently, “Doing better,” followed by “Do more of what you are doing better,” has a huge multiplier effect.

As a result, we maximize the utilization and impact of all our resources. We focus on all the elements of performance, not just the quantity of activities.

As managers, our responsibility is to maximize the performance of our people, not maximizing the activities of our people. These are very different.

Are you fulfilling your responsibilities as a manager?

Afterword: Please don’t confuse this with “less is more.” I’m not certain “less is more,” is the same as what I am suggesting.

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Aug 8 19

Sales Is Simple, Buying Isn’t!

by David Brock

I succumbed to a certain amount of narcissism (as I often do) in my post: Sales Is Simple, Simple Is Not Easy.

The problem with my post, as accurate as it may have been, is that I did what too many of us do, focusing on ourselves–sales people, sales leaders, and selling.

We all do that, we focus on what we do. We get into conversations about how we do what we do better. I don’t want to dismiss those conversations, they are important. But starting with what we do is the wrong starting point.

We always have to start with the Buyer.

Buying, more accurately, what our buyers face isn’t simple. In fact, every piece of research indicates buyers, customers, are overwhelmed with complexity.

They are overwhelmed by the rate of change, the volume of information/data, risk, the increasing complexity of getting things done within their own organizations, ambiguity, conflict, increasing competition, disruption, and transformation. They are distracted, confused, overworked, under-resourced. They struggle with coping.

The data on buying, as well as the data on internal problem solving success (buying is just a component of the problem/opportunity solving process), demonstrates this struggle. Gartner data has shown 53% of all buying journey’s end in no decision made. The primary reasons for this failure has nothing to do with vendor/solution selection. For those that struggle with buying, Gartner research shows huge amounts of buyer remorse with the quality of those decisions.

Separate data on company project success shows similar challenges with the majority of internal projects failing to achieve their objectives.

Gartner data, also, shows this struggle isn’t because of the lack of high quality information and content from suppliers. In fact, buyers are, increasingly, overwhelmed with high quality information from suppliers.

Our buyers are struggling with complexity and coping.

And that’s the challenge we sales professionals must focus on–both to help and create value for our customers, and in achieving our own goals.

The discussion on sales being simple and what we need to do to execute at a higher level is the wrong starting point. But if we focus on simplification in sales/selling, we don’t address what our customers face, and what stands in the way of our ability to sell.

Sensemaking, helping our customers understand and deal with the complexity they face, individually and organizationally, needs to be the center of our focus. Ironically, in doing this, we will continue to simplify what it means to sell.

Stated differently, we can no longer focus our questions on how to sell, we have to focus our conversations on our customers and how to help them understand, make sense of what they face, and buy. Only through understanding that, can we begin to discover how to sell.

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Aug 7 19

What If We Talked About Our Customers?

by David Brock

Recently, the CEO of a company shared the agenda for his management offsite meeting.

Agenda: – Review key metrics (30 min) – Discuss service growth plan (30 min) – Discuss 2020 product vision (30 min) – Discuss pricing / packaging (6 hours) 😂 – Harbor boat ride (90 minutes)

I see dozens of these every year. Some for meetings I’ve been invited to participate in, some from my coaching clients.

They’re not much different than the one outlined above. Yes, some of the specifics are different, but generally, they focus on a lot of internal business topics.

The one thing virtually all these agendas lack is a discussion about customers—which is surprising, because it is our customers that drive our business.

It’s far to easy in any meeting to get consumed in our businesses. To focus on our own metrics, projects, challenges, and so forth and to forget about customers. But imagine how our mindsets might change if, in each meeting, we reserved just a few minutes to talk about customers.

Try the following as an experiment in your company for the next 30 days.

In the first 5-10 minutes of every meeting, share two stories:

  1. A success a customer has had because of what you have helped them achieve. Find a story of a customer that is getting results from your solutions. Share their success, talk about it with the team. Remember, it’s their success, not the success you have had winning a customer.
  2. A problem a customer has had with your products or in doing business with you. Don’t try to solve it, just try to understand it and the impact it had on them.

Start every meeting this way. Not just executive meetings, sales or marketing meetings. Start every meeting thinking about the customer. If it’s a finance meeting, an operations meeting, an engineering design review, every meeting.

If you can, get a picture of the customer to show as you tell the story. Make sure it’s a picture of the individual, not a corporate logo. Make it personal, because it’s personal to the customer.

Assign a different person, each meeting to get the story. Depending on the function, they may need help from marketing, sales or customer service. Ideally, as part of the preparation for the meeting, they will spend 5 minutes talking to the customer on the phone. (Be sure to send them a thank you note, telling them what happened when you told the story.)

Take 5-10 minutes of every meeting—I know you have the time, because I’ve never attended a meeting that didn’t waste at least 5-10 minutes. Do this in every meeting for 30 days.

I guarantee, this will be game changing for your perspective and that of everyone in the company. All of a sudden, the customer becomes the center of everything we do.

Afterword: My thanks to the CEO of the company with the agenda at the top of this post. He had very good humor with my comments about the absence of discussion about customers.

After afterword: For extra credit points, frame those pictures with a small description of the story, hang them around your offices and facilities. I had a client that lined the hallways with these pictures and stories. They named conference rooms after customers–people, not companies.

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