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Apr 2 18

Speak With An End In Mind–A Guest Post From Diego Segura

by David Brock

With the advent of fancy algorithms and analytics, online content is as curated and relevant to the individual as it’s ever been. Hop on Twitter at any given moment and you’ll be met with sports highlights, news bits, and 6 second videos of (arguably) funny people. Spend a couple weeks on the platform, and Twitter will begin to figure out that you’re more of a sports guy, and that you can’t help but click on a couple cute cat videos every once in a while. Using this information, the platform becomes more enjoyable for you to use over time as your content becomes more relevant to your interests: exactly what you want, precisely when you want it.

If you have to lead, sell or teach to social media-addicted young folk that are used to such instantly gratifying content, this can be a bit scary. Many a teacher have asked me some variation of the question, “How am I supposed to compete against a full-suite entertainment device when I’m teaching high school history/English/math?” It’s a tough sell, to a tougher-than-ever crowd that has your replacement on call at a moment’s notice.

What is it about the content on the internet that makes it so instantly gratifying and captivating to the young audiences that love it so dearly? Among plenty of other factors, one of the most important keys to a viral video or article is that it is succinct and easy to consume. However, there’s plenty of short form content out there, and not all of it is going viral. All of the content that sees truly breakout success has one thing in common: it progresses quickly and ends with satisfying resolve.

The content speaks with an end in mind, whether that be a purchase, a question, or a punchline.

If a video takes a long time to load, if an article isn’t interesting within the first sentence, if a TED Talk doesn’t get to the point quickly: the audience is gone before you can say “Here’s the point.” It’s more important than ever to speak with a very clear purpose and resolution from the outset of your speech, lesson, or meeting. Think about it this way: What’s the very last sentence that I’ll tell my audience today? Word for word: What will they hear, and what will that mean to them by the time I’m done?

Knowing the end, and thus knowing where you’re going means having a path to get there. Inverting the problem and recognizing the result first is a framework for creating the rest of our message. Each and every piece of the next meeting, class, or speech that you lead should be purposeful and lead you and your audience logically to the desired result.

Comedy is built on this principle. The punchline only works because the entirety of the joke has been explicitly designed with the punchline in mind. By the end of the joke, whether you know it or not, the comic has formed your perception and created an expectation which they soon violently and comically shatter, leaving you in laughter. The problem with comics who aren’t funny? They never stopped to ask themselves how they wanted the joke to end and thus kill the ‘funny’ that they labored so hard for.

As natural as the best comics may make it seem, their laughter is not a lucky find at the end of the rainbow—it’s calculated, down to the inflection of certain syllables and pronunciation of words to create the desired effect. The only way a comedian can calculate the joke is by knowing what is on the opposite side of the equals sign! If you know less about math than you do communication, an illustration will suffice:

Before you begin to speak, think of your final sentence:  the words themselves, not just an abstract concluding idea. For example, the very last sentence of this post will be the exact same as the title: “Speak with an end in mind.” By the time you finish reading, that statement should make far more sense than it did at the outset. At this point, you get to walk away with one sentence and tell others about the idea. By identifying the desired end effect, the rest of the contents can be verified: does this fall in line with the end that I have in mind, or is this a mere digression that subtracts from my message?

At age seventeen, speaking to clients that are often much older and more experienced in life and work than I, their default behavior is often to dismiss me at the outset of a conversation. This may seem like an insurmountable obstacle of perception, but having something valuable to say and adequately structuring and explaining my ideas (by way of having an end in mind) is a solution that has and will continue to help me. It works because when I’m speaking with an end in mind, I’m speaking with a purpose, and that goes a long way with anyone of any age.

In Philip Delves Broughton’s The Art of the Sale, Ted Leonsis puts it best:

“No one wakes up in the morning and thinks ‘I want to buy an advertisement.’ They think, ‘I have a perception to change. How do I best do that?’”

It’s the exact same for any communication that we put the time and effort into creating. We don’t wake up in the morning and think, “I want to talk,” and then proceed to speak every chance we get. That’s so remarkably egotistical and self-centered that it’s painful to even consider as our own course of action. Though it may not be intentional, that’s the sort of rambling that any audience, but especially younger audiences will perceive. If you’re not speaking with an end in mind, soon you won’t be speaking at all. You don’t have to be a cute cat video or a supermodel to capture the eyes and ears of your young contemporaries, but you do have to speak with an end in mind.

 About:  Diego Segura is a 17 year old brand identity designer and partner at thirdbreath. Besides making awesome written and spoken content on his blog and making awesome brand identities for his clients, you will find Diego making you feel old by being born in the year 2000, which feels like yesterday. You can follow his journey and development on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at his blog.


Afterword:  I’ve been publishing this blog for roughly 9 years.  Weekly, I get at least a dozen requests for “guest posts.”  This is only the second guest post to appear since I started the blog.  Why did I do this?  First, Diego wrote me one of the best prospecting notes I’ve received, my comments on it are here.  Second, when I spoke with Diego, I was struck by his thinking.  Not that it was different, but more that it’s very similar to things I tend to think about, as well as a lot of my readers.

A lot is made of the differences between Boomers, Gen X, and Millenials (Diego calls them the “older generation.”)  While there are differences there are more similarities than we think.  By focusing on our common dreams, aspirations, goals, and challenges, we  achieve more with each other than we do by focusing on our differences.

I’m very proud of Diego’s piece and his message of speaking with an end in mind.  I was tough on him, asking him to revise the post several times.  But his message is important for all of us–particularly in sales.

Thank you Diego for taking the time to contribute and Make A Difference.  Thank you for teaching me in the process.  You are welcome to publish more in the future!


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Mar 29 18

It’s Harder To Sell Within Our Own Companies!

by David Brock

Tibor Shanto posed an interesting situation in a LinkedIn discussion:

Got an interesting question or scenario for people who work with sales managers, presented by an experienced sales manager and her new company. She was invited to join the company because of her track record in the industry. They wanted her to establish a similar team and process to the one she had implemented at her previous company and told her she had Carte Blanche. It turns out there was a silent asterisk: “Do whatever you want, just don’t change anything other than the results. What’s her best move four months on the job?

Here’s the link:

I was surprised at the tone of the discussion.  Most of the comments.  Most of them were more on the side of, “F**k ’em, they gave her carte blanche, she should do what she wants to do…..”  (This is my phrasing, most people aren’t as crude as I.)  Others talked about the incompetence of top management, and other similar comments.  The recommendations ended up being very strong and very confrontive–after all, they appeared to have reneged on their commitment and we need to confront them with that.

To me, the situation looks a lot like a typical sales situation.  Often we encounter customers who seem to be clueless, who don’t recognize they may be doing things wrong, that there are better ways to achieve their goals, they are missing opportunities.  They are often very resistant to change, for any number of good and bad reasons.

No one, even the leading “provactive sellers,” would recommend the following approach to these customers, “You stupid, clueless customers!!! Don’t you realize how backwards you are, don’t you realize your competitors are passing you by, don’t you realize if you don’t change you will become roadkill on the business highway?!!!???”

We know customers don’t like confrontive or obnoxious behavior.  We realize, they may just not know, they may be too busy in managing the day to day,  they may just be prisoners of their own experience.

They may have made poor decisions, executed poorly.  Certainly, where they are and the problems they have are the result of these, and if there were blame, the blame is solely on them.

But we know calling them out on their ignorance, lack of foresight, poor execution, and mistakes is not likely to get them to listen to us and consider changing.

We invest time in teaching, educating, getting them to recognize a better way of doing things.  We get them to realize there may be a better way, but they still resist–fearful of the change and risk.  We know we have to get them to recognize the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of change.

We all know, that to be successful, we have to engage the customer in thinking differently, commit to change and see themselves at the center of that change.

So we come back to our own organizations.  Are we any different?  A sales person trying to sell us and our management something, wouldn’t call us fools or clueless shits.  Instead they would do what they know to be successful in engaging customers and getting them to change.

But when it happens to us, in our own organizations, why do we react and execute differently.  Why do we whine, complain, argue, threaten, fight, speak poorly of managers or peers.

What would happen if we looked at the changes we want to drive in our own organizations as another sales opportunity?  We could qualify the need to change, we could incite the need to change through creating a new vision, we could educate, teach, do all the things we would do with a customer.

We would recognize that just as our customers struggle with change, our own leaders and people struggle.  We have to acknowledge that, making the pain of doing nothing greater than the pain of change.

It seems we would be much more effective in driving change in our own organizations if we started looking at our leaders, managers, peers, and people as customers–leveraging much of what we do in great selling in our work with them.

Sure there will be some we lose, just like customers, but it seems the current ways we do things don’t have “high win rates,” so why not try?


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Mar 26 18

If You Don’t Know Who Your Customer Is, Improving Selling Skills Won’t Help

by David Brock

Over the past few days, I’ve been participating in a discussion about a struggling organization.   It’s a start up, the CEO wanted help in developing sales skills.  But as the discussion progressed, it was clear the CEO didn’t understand who their customers were.  They were responding to queries from whoever happened to find their web site.

They also didn’t understand why their customers were buying, in fact it wasn’t clear that they understood what problems they were solving for the customer–their win rate was 1.7%.

Yet the CEO and many participants in the discussion were convince, all they needed to do was improve their selling skills.

There are so many red flags in this situation–while it’s an extreme example, it’s not an uncommon situation.

The best sales person in the world will be unsuccessful if she doesn’t know who her ideal customer is.  Great selling skills are meaningless if you aren’t really clear about the problems you solve for these ideal customers and why solving these problems is important to them.

This problem arises from our “inward-out,” product based focus.  We are chartered to sell our products and services, focusing on what we do—but now about who cares about what we do and why they should.

As a result, we waste huge amounts of time, resources, as well as creating customer ill will by trying to engage all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.

It seems so obvious, but is actually not well done:

  • What problems we are the best in the world at solving?
  • Who are the organizations/people that have those problems?  Both as enterprises and individuals within those enterprises (personas).
  • How do we know they have those problems now, or may have a high sense of urgency about solving those problems?
  • How do they buy these solutions, how do we engage customers in buying?

Developing our expertise to “sell” is meaningless until we know who we sell to and why they might have a need to buy.  Developing prospecting, qualifying, discovery, objection handling, presenting, or any number of other classic selling skills is meaningless unless we know the specific context in which we need to execute these.

We have to do our homework, we have to understand/define who our customers are, what we do and why it’s important to them.  Without this, we have no starting point and no reason to sell.


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Mar 24 18

Playing Sales Enablement “Catch-Up”

by David Brock

This week, I had meetings with a number of sales enablement professionals.  Each came from very large companies with strong commitments to sales enablement.  Each had long experience and sales enablement programs that would be considered “best in class.”

In each conversation, they were struggling with similar issues, “How to keep up with the demand for help/support.”  They had long list of things they needed to put in place.  Different training, new content, new tools.  They faced issues of which to prioritize, how to get the work done, how to implement without overwhelming the sales teams, how to manage the change, how to assure results were being produced.

As they struggled with these issues, the demand for “more” kept increasing.  In some ways, it’s a mixed blessing–really great sales enablement organizations always face this demand for more.

In a conversation with John and Josh, John made expressed his frustration with a striking statement, “How do I get ahead of this?”

We realized the challenge with many mature sales enablement organizations, is they are always behind, they are always playing a game of catch up.  As things change–both with customers, markets, and within our own companies, sales enablement is faced with responding to those changes.

But just the nature of being in response mode means you are in a game of catch up where you can never catch up, let alone get ahead of things.

The cycle is amazingly consistent:

  1.  Sales people start facing a a new issue.  At first it’s limited to a few, then it starts manifesting itself on a wider organizational level.
  2. It takes time for management and sales enablement to identify and recognize the issue.
  3. Then we have to decide what we are going to do about it.
  4. Then we have to implement the new programs.  In large organizations, this sometimes can take a very long time.
  5. Then we have to watch to see what results are produced, making sure we have addressed the issues we were trying to solve.
  6. Then we have to monitor progress, refine and improve.
  7. Then we have to keep the programs updated and current, assuring they still are relevant and truly “enable.” the sales organization.

Quickly, you can see there is a tremendous lag time between understanding there is an issue to be addressed, actually addressing it, and seeing the results of the changes.  All that time represents lost opportunity and performance challenges.

In the mean time, the world isn’t standing still, new problems/challenges/opportunities are arising faster than those we are currently addressing.

Too often, well intended sales enablement professionals are on a track of continually trying to catch up–while wanting to get ahead.

The issue is, at least for high performing organizations, is that we will never be able to catch up, we will always be behind in what we are trying to do and achieve.

But how do we break this conundrum?

I think a large part of it is changing the problem we are trying to solve.

Instead of continually trying to supply all the things our sales people need to be successful–training, content, tools, scripts, etc.; perhaps we are better off equipping our sales people with the capability to figure things out for themselves.

There will always be a gap between what we can provide and what our sales people face.  Overlay this with the fact that every situation is different, so we can never address everything people need.

Equipping our people with the capability to figure things out for themselves enables us to do several things.  It helps us “get ahead” of the issues–rather than responding, we can be proactive/anticipatory in enabling sales people to address the situations they face.  It also reduces the number of “reactive” programs we have to develop in response to sales needs.  If they’ve already figured out how to address situations, we may not have to develop programs that are intended to enable them to do this.

This requires a new strategy for sales enablement–and sales management.  Critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, problem solving become critical skills/capabilities.

The more we help our people to learn how to think, how to figure things out, the less we have to do in giving them the answers and having them execute blindly.

We have to recruit people that have those capabilities.

But we can’t stop there, we have to train people in these skills–growing and extending their capability to figure things out.

A handful of organizations are teaching things like critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, problem solving (Yes, I do believe these things can be taught/developed).

Equipping our sales people with these skills enables us to get ahead of things, they have the capability of coming up with their own solutions/answers to deal with issues they are facing.

But sales management has a role in this as well–beyond just recruiting people with these skills.  We enhance our people’s capabilities in how we coach them.

Too often, we are in “in tell mode,” in our coaching.  Our people learn nothing when we are in tell mode.  Instead, we need to ask the questions, help them analyze situations, help them figure things out, help them diagnose, understand, and take action on the things they face in doing there jobs.

Yes, we still have to develop sales enablement programs to develop the skills of people, to enhance their productivity, but now it becomes simpler and we can focus on the few most critical areas, rather than trying to play an impossible catch up game.

Developing the critical thinking/problem solving skills of our people not only simplifies our jobs as sales enablement professionals, but it has another huge benefit.

It completely changes how we engage and create value with our customers.  Our customers are facing exactly the same issues–they are trying to figure things out and solve their own problems.  Sales people that have these skills, bring greater value in engaging customers.

Every sales enablement organizations/professional would do themselves and their organizations a huge favor by stepping back from playing the catch up game they are currently playing, and thinking of, “what can we do to develop sales’ capabilities to figure things out?”


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