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Radical Simplification

by Dave Brock on December 6th, 2012
Businessman and problems

There’s no doubt, the world and business is more complex and this is unlikely to stop.  Our customers struggle with managing complexity–though pragmatically, it may be just how do they get from day-to-day.  Within our own organizations, the same issues are at play.  And last, but not least, our own jobs as sales and marketing professionals are complex.  We’re pulled in many directions, we have conflicting goals, not enough time–and then those damn prospects and customers!

I’m struck by the approaches many pundits, consultants, solution providers take in trying to “help” us deal with the complexity.  We (I’ll include myself–sometimes I lose sight of things) make things more complex.  We introduce a myriad of tools, techniques, checklists, processes, buzzwords, gimmicks, flow charts, and other things aimed to help us deal with the complexity.  We have so much to remember:  which methodology do I apply?  Should I be challenging, selling solutions, being provocative or consultative, relationship selling, selling to VITO, business value selling, trust-based, or managing the transaction.  Should we be focusing on the methodology or the process?

Should I be selling a product, system, solution, a vision? What about services?

Who am I dealing with, are they the economic or technical buyer?  Mobilizers, talkers, blockers?  The Fox? An influencer, recommender, decisionmaker, vetoer?  Is the customer an INTJ, ESTP, ISFJ, or ENFP?  Is this a transactional or complex selling process?

When I talk to the customer what neurolinguistic approach should I use?

We’re supposed to be social selling, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, Linking In, building communities and tribes, collaborating virtually, networking.

 Within our own organizations, our managers, sales enablement people, marketing, and others are all trying to “help.”  WE have sales enablement and marketing developing playbooks, battlecards, using white boarding, complex messaging.  We’re chattering, jiving, yammering–sometimes with the help of systems tools.

Marketing is helping us, we have sales qualified leads, marketing qualified leads, lead scoring, campaigns, nurturing, content management.   We have personas, segments, and so forth.

Within our own organizations, we have endlessly conflicting benchmarks and best practices, which viewed in totality result in mediocrity.

Then sales managers have a lot to figure out.  What kind of sales people do we need?   Hunters, farmers, account managers, prospectors, challengers, problem solvers, relationship sellers, rainmakers, inside sales, outside sales, partners, business developers.  What assessments, competencies, KPI’s?  Do we have enough measures? Is at least one of them a 3rd order complex equation requiring a PhD in math to calculate?

I can go on and on and on, but I think you get the point.

Don’t get me wrong, most of this has some value–at least in provoking new thinking and different approaches.  However, introducing more complexity doesn’t help us manage and deal with complexity.  It seems the larger the organization I deal with, the worse it is.  Years of accumulated initiatives, programs, approaches, methodologies take their toll.  People are confused, they are worn out.

It’s no wonder why sales productivity, people making quota, time available for selling figures all seem to be going in the wrong direction.

While it may seem to obvious, we should be doing exactly the opposite, we should be seeking RADICAL Simplification of everything we do.

 My vanity prevents me from saying how long I’ve been selling, but trust me, it’s a loooooooong time!  On top of that, because I consult, speak, and write about selling, I’ve studied it, going back decades.

It seems to me basic principles still prevail:

  1. Customers want to deal with people they trust and have the customers’ interests as the central objective.
  2. They want sales people who are prepared knowledgeable, about their products, about their customers’ businesses.
  3. Customers don’t want their time wasted.  After all. their own worlds are complex enough.
  4. Customers don’t want to be sold, they want to buy.
  5. Customers don’t want to be pitched–regardless how provocative or challenging.  They want to be engaged, they prefer conversations.
  6. Customers want to be heard.
  7. Customers want value–that is the benefits of whatever they do (or don’t do) must outweigh the costs and risks.
  8. Customers want to improve–their businesses and business performance.  Their personal circumstances–whether it’s a promotion or just getting sanity in the midst of complexity.
  9. Customers want to grow–their businesses and personally.
  10. Customers don’t want problems–ever.  If they have problems, they want to know they are being managed effectively.
  11. Customers want a good deal and to be treated fairly.  They don’t want to feel as though they have been taken advantage of, manipulated or cheated.
  12. They want to know their suppliers care.
  13. Sales professionals want to be successful.  (Note this discussion focuses on Sales Professionals—not the hacks, peddlers, or predators who, after all, aren’t really sales people.)
  14. Sales professionals want to find customers that have a need to buy (perhaps latent), and the opportunity to present their solutions if there is a good fit.
  15. Sales professionals are interested in their customers and their success.
  16. Sales professionals don’t want to waste their time, ever, with anyone.  If it’s not a real deal–or they have no chance of being competitive, they want to know so they can go someplace else.  They don’t want people in their own companies wasting their time.
  17. Sales professionals want recognition and rewards–both financial and otherwise.
  18. Sales professionals want to grow and develop.
  19. Sales professionals want to know their managers and companies have their backs.

All of this is basic.  Most of it is common sense.  What’s most amazing is that what customers and sales professionals want are pretty aligned.  None of this requires complex jargon, processes, and so forth.

This is the time of year when all the pundits, bloggers, consultants, and self proclaimed guru’s are rife with recommendations for things we have to do in the New Year.  It sells books, consulting gigs, and speaking engagements  (OK, maybe I’m being a little cynical about my own profession.)

Sales and marketing organizations are doing the same thing.  New priorities, new structures, new organizations, new initiatives, and the list goes on.  There are always endless lists of programs and initiatives.  And if past history is any indication, most organizations will get a few months into these programs, start to struggle, then abandon everything and go back  to the drawing board.

There is one thing I’m not hearing.  How do we RADICALLY Simplify?  For the customer and for ourselves!

Our worlds will continue to be complex.  But I don’t think we answer complexity with complexity.  I think we must start with Radical Simplification!  Before you think about the new programs and initiatives, what are you going to stop?  I think we need to be stopping much more than we are starting.  Perhaps we should only be focusing on what we stop and look at the results we get from this simplification before we start anything new.

I’ve been writing a lot about lean this year.  One of the first principles of lean is simplification.  Without this, we create waste and diminish the value we provide.

I’d love your feedback on this.  I’ve planned to write a number of posts on this.  I think it is the single most impactful thing we can do.  What about you?

 


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3 Comments
  1. Dave, this is spot on!
    Yes,the world is complex and it’s getting even more complex. And often, there is a tendency to reinvent the wheel and to add more stuff, more tools and more content, more trainings and so forth. But that’s not what creates impact, that’s not really brave, that doesn’t make a difference in a performance oriented way. Sales people will just turn off the noise, maybe customers also. That’s what actually happens…

    I remember years ago, when we implemented the first sales enablement platform and we threw away thousands of pieces of sales content – because it was no longer relevant, not up-to-date, to be reworked, or in five versions on five different portals…it adds up!
    What a fight until we could really throw away all that unnecessary content… You can imagine.

    One of my favorite quotes is definitely this one from Albert Einstein:
    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

    But there is one thought, I wanted to share: To be able to really simplify complicated / complex systems, we have to understand them really completely – if not, we cut out the wrong things and create no value. That’s a tendency I observe in many organizations. The wish to simplify is bigger than the will to get a deep understanding in the first place.

    Some months ago, I have written a post on complexity and complicacy / complicatedness – yes, it might sound very German engineered ;-) But we often have different words for one English term!
    Maybe you want to have a look at that:

    Sales enablement professionals – Why to be a “simpltist” AND a “linchpin”!:
    http://blog.tamaraschenk.com/?p=128

    • Great comment and brilliant post Tamara! I’m glad you reinforced the fact that you have to first understand—I had assumed rational human being would to so, but remembered we’re dealing with sales (I’m sorry, couldn’t resist poking a little fun at ourselves).

      I think Lean approaches and tools are the foundation of this. After all, lean focuses both an radical simplification and radical value creation.

      As always, my posts are never complete without your thoughts ;-)

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