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Jan 24 20

What About Your Customer’s Customer?

by David Brock

All of our customers have customers of their own, though they may not recognize that.

They may be “real customers,” that is people/organizations they sell to. They may be “internal,” customers. For example, functions like finance, operations, HR, IT, all have end customers they must serve within their own organizations.

Sometimes, particularly for internal customers, our customers forget about this. I once was speaking to a mid-level IT executive. He was complaining, saying, “Everything would be great if it wasn’t for those stupid end users!” What he failed to recognize is that he wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for supporting the needs of those internal customers.

Our customers jobs, their success is based on how well they serve those customers. Their budgets, funding, priorities, are all driven by responding to what their internal customers need, and how they are helping those customers.

As sales people, understanding our customers’ customers gives us huge leverage in creating value with our customers.

Sometimes, as in the case of that IT Executive, they are so busy or internally focused, they forget about those customers. They forget that the things they want to do, which create opportunities for us, are dependent on creating results for those customers.

Out customers’ customers have problems, frustrations, challenges. We have the opportunity to help our customers become “heroes” to their customers by helping them solve those problems, eliminate the frustrations, address the challenges.

Often, we help our customers keep their jobs, because their customers have other alternatives, just as our customers have.

Too often, our customers get focused on their costs as they address new opportunities. What will it cost them to buy our products, what will it cost them to implement/support them? Do they have the budget, what other projects would they have to cancel? We can help them change that perspective by helping them build the business case for what they help their customers achieve and what they do for those customers? In doing this, the business case for our solution skyrockets!

Too often, we fail to leverage an understanding of our customers’ customers in our selling efforts and in how we help them better serve/create value with their customers. But, this is, possibly, the greatest value we can create and the greatest value we can help our customers create for their customers.

Take some time to understand your customers’ customers. Understand their needs, problems, frustrations, challenges and the impact on them. Help your customer understand them. Help them figure out how to address them. Help them become heroes to their customers.

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Jan 23 20

“What Problem Is The Customer Trying To Solve?”

by David Brock

Pause for a moment. Look at your qualified pipeline.

Start at the bottom.

Can you identify the problem the customer is trying to solve? Or the opportunity they are trying to address?

I ask this in every deal review I participate in. At least 80% of the time, the response I get is, “They are trying to buy……..” or, “We are selling….”

We always tend to define the customer business problems in terms of what we sell, not what the customer is trying to do–whether it’s solving a problem or addressing the opportunity.

What we sell is just one thing in the path of what the customer is trying to achieve. We focus on what we sell because that’s what’s important to us, but what’s important to the customer is the problem they are trying to solve.

To be successful in engaging customers we have to make everything about them. To do that, you have to be able to answer the following questions in terms meaningful to them?

  1. What is the problem/opportunity they are trying to solve?
  2. Why do they need to solve it now?
  3. Why is this project important to their management?
  4. What are the consequences of doing nothing?
  5. What outcomes do they expect as a result of solving the problem?
  6. What’s in it for them (personally and organizationally) to solve the problem now?
  7. How well do they understand the problem and what they are trying to do?

These are the foundational questions for every opportunity. Of course there are many others, like who’s involved, how will they make a decision, what alternatives are they considering. But if we can’t crisply answer these 7 questions in customer terms, we will always be disadvantaged in our engagement process, we will fail to create the value the customer needs.

Look at your top 10 deals. Can you answer these questions for those deals. If you can’t, get busy!

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Jan 22 20

“Form Triumphs Over Substance”

by David Brock

One book I reread every year is “Excellence, Can We Be Equal And Excellent Too?” by John Gardner. It was published in the early 60’s and is one of the most profound modern philosophy books I’ve read. A mentor recommended it to me, I reread it every year.

One line I’ve highlighted is: “Do not let form triumph over substance.”

As we kick off a new calendar year, it seems appropriate to revisit this concept. Virtually every sales leader and organization I encounter is doing the things sales leaders and organizations should be doing. There’s the laundry list we all know: Forecast reviews, pipeline reviews, deal reviews, account/territory plans, prospecting programs, one on one’s, and so forth.

They have each invested in the tools sales organizations are supposed to invest in, including CRM, marketing automation, sales enablement platforms, and so forth.

They invest millions in sales enablement, training, sales methodologies, content, and related programs.

They have all sorts of analysis and tools to understand and manage performance.

Yet nothing changes. The data shows continued decline in the percent of sales people meeting plan. We see customers becoming increasingly reluctant to engage. We see average tenure in all sales roles plummeting to 16.5 months.

How could all this be happening if we have all the right things in place?

As I drill down in the organizations, despite having everything that should drive sales performance in place, they aren’t using them–or at least not as effectively as possible.

It seems we think that by putting these things in place, we will automatically perform. Or by going through the motions of conducting a review, performance will improve.

It seems when things don’t work as expected, once we have things in place, we revert to several behaviors:

  1. Doing more of all of this, faster.
  2. Blaming it on the people and finding new people to go through the same motions.
  3. Putting in place the latest miracle cure, program, technology–many of which can be helpful but will fail because we focus on form.

We focus on form, but not on the substance. We have lost sight of, or never understood, the “why” of what we are doing. We don’t coach people in “how” and “what” to do to produce results. We don’t have the courage to stick to executing what we know should work. We don’t analyze, tune, and correct things when they don’t.

Form has won!

But there’s good news. Largely, we have the right things in place. We just aren’t using them. Simply focusing on what we know is right, what we know is the right way to do those things, and consistently executing them drives results in an amazingly short time.

Rather than going through a complex process of changing, selecting and implementing something new, simply using and consistently executing the things we already have in place is faster, more effective, and cheaper.

We have to be cautious, though. We can’t do everything at once. We have to identify the highest leverage area to work on, focus on that, drive consistent execution and results, then move to the next thing.

Just because we have all the right things in place, doesn’t mean we will produce the results we expect. We have to make them work, we have to focus on consistent execution. We have to learn from our experience and take corrective action. We have to consistently improve.

Gardner captured all of this in one simple sentence, “Do not let form triumph over substance.”

Afterword: Print this in large font, tape it to the wall of your office, the bezel of your display, or something you see every day. Take a moment, as you rush from one activity to the next, to read, reflect, reset.

Afterword: We’ve developed the Sales Execution Framework as a tool to help our clients understand and implement the substance of what they already have in place. Reach out for a free whitepaper on the Sales Execution Framework (SEF).

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Jan 21 20

“CRM Compliance”

by David Brock

Talking about CRM is sure to provoke huge amounts of discussion, pro and con, about these tools.

First, it’s a huge revenue generation sector for the CRM providers. I’m told it’s roughly $40B/annually. And I’m not certain that includes revenues for all the apps that depend on CRM.

Second, in spite of the billions we spend, a friend I trust says there is data showing utilization is around 26%.

I don’t know whether those are accurate data points, but I suspect they are pretty close.

As a colleague, Kevin Dixon, nets it out, “It seems everyone is paying a lot of money for something we don’t use.”

I’ve heard all the whining and complaints, from all parties, about CRM systems. “It takes too much time….. Do you want me spending my time entering data or do you want me to spend my time selling…. It’s just a tool for management to keep tabs on me….. The interface sucks (this is actually true for most systems)….. And on and on and on….”

And then there are the people that hide behind CRM—managers and sales people alike. There are those managers that believe CRM is the source of all insight into performance problems with the sales organization. “If we generate yet another report, we will be able to see what the problem is and how to fix it.”

Or, perhaps, worse than those that hide behind CRM, those that demand their people use it, but never use it themselves. Not long ago, a manager was complaining that his people weren’t keeping their opportunities updated. I asked him to show me some examples. He had to call someone into his office to find and open some opportunities.

There are endless issues that keep sales people, managers, and our organizations from getting the value from CRM they could. And we waste even more time complaining and whining about those issues.

The problem is less with the systems—and I’m not letting the leading suppliers off the hook. Most of their designs, even their newer versions are too complex. There are some new niche vendors who have spent a lot of time developing better user interfaces–yet they face similar compliance issues.

So what underlies the CRM compliance problem?

In my experience, it’s because sales people and managers don’t know how to leverage the systems to make them more productive, effective, efficient—even win more business.

This is less a training issue. Unfortunately, most to the training I see is “keystroke” training. It doesn’t directly address, “here’s how you leverage these tools to ……[be more effective, efficient, impactful, win more deals].” Sadly, even the front line sales people for the CRM vendors struggle with articulating this for their own jobs.

If we focus specifically on the why and how a person becomes much more effective, efficient, impactful productive and even winning a few more deals, we will not have a compliance issue. Once managers understand how to leverage the tool to identify areas where they can be most impactful in coaching and developing their people, they won’t hide behind their reports and they will leverage the tool to help themselves in driving the performance of their teams.

Compliance is an issue because we aren’t addressing the fundamental issue of “how does it help me perform better.” Until we focus on that, compliance will always be an issue and we will fail to get the return we should from our investments in CRM.

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