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Jun 26 22

A Bigger Piece Of The Pie

by David Brock

This weekend, in celebration of the beginning of summer, I was invited to a dinner with friends. At the end of dinner, the host brought out one of my favorite desserts, key lime pie.

I feigned politeness, letting everyone take their pieces before I served myself. Truthfully, it was pure selfishness, I wanted to get a bigger piece of the pie.

For many of us, I’m one of those, there’s always the tendency to go after a bigger piece of the pie. Long time followers know I’m fond of saying, “It’s our God-given right to 100% share of account and share of customers–we just have to figure out how to do this.”

There is a huge opportunity for us to get a bigger piece of the pie in competing for business. Unfortunately, most of our selling strategies focus on the smallest and most difficult piece of the pie, beating the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to dominate every sales situation, I want to beat my competition every time. But this focus on the competitor blinds us to the biggest piece of the pie, and we’ve know this for years–failing to do anything about it!

60% of committed/funded buying efforts end in No Decision Made!

All our focus is on fighting for the smallest piece of the pie, that 40% where customers choose a vendor.

Imagine the opportunity we can create, and the value we create with our customers, if we started looking at the biggest piece of the pie and started going after that.

But to compete for this bigger piece of the pie, we have to refocus our selling strategies. Fortunately, through the work of Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna, we are learning how to do this.

Of that 60% of the pie that’s is up for grabs, 44% (26% of the whole pie) is the customer preference for the status quo. Stated differently, the pain of change is greater than that of doing nothing. We have all sorts ways for addressing this (and discounting isn’t one). Developing business cases to help them understand the lost opportunity and the costs of doing nothing are powerful in building the case for change, moving from the status quo.

But what about the other 56% of that “left over pie.” (34% of the whole pie) What causes this? Matt and Ted tell us this is driven by indecision–the fear of messing up. However compelling the business case or need to change is, until we deal with the customer indecision, we will not get them to move forward.

I’m not advocating we stop paying attention to winning and beating the competition. I just think we and our customers miss a huge opportunity by failing to look at what’s left–the decisions they fail to reach. How do we help them and get a bigger piece of the pie?

Back to our dinner party. The host knows me well. She saw what I was doing with the key lime pie. She sent me home with the rest of the pie…..

Wasting any part of the pie is, well a waste…….

Afterword: Read Matt and Ted’s great article in HBR: https://hbr.org/2022/06/stop-losing-sales-to-customer-indecision. Preorder The Jolt Effect

Jun 24 22

Selling And The “Peripheral Players…”

by David Brock

For those of you who haven’t discovered the wisdom and insight of Tom Morris, stop reading now, go to Amazon, order any or all of his books. You will find so much wisdom that help you think about your, your teams, your customers’ success. Follow him on LinkedIn, you will learn so much!

With that as an introduction, Tom wrote a fascinating piece on philosophers of the 21st century. Tom thinks limo/taxi/Uber/Lyft drives are among the best, because of what they see every day. I added to the discussion with a perspective on barbers and housekeepers.

Tom’s observations got me thinking about the “peripheral players” we find at our customers and their importance in our efforts to engage customers.

As sellers, we are viciously focused on finding the “decisionmaker(s),” alternatively the “influencers.” These are the people, we tend to view as most important in our efforts.

But there are a lot of other people having, perhaps, peripheral or minor roles in the “decision,” but who actually have huge influence in our success. And too often, we ignore these people. Or even worse, we treat these people poorly.

Hopefully, we all know the importance of executive assistants. We think of them as gatekeepers and there are endless “experts” telling us how to get around them. But they see what’s really happening in the organization. The things that many people, in fact the people they support, don’t pay attention to, but can be very critical in understanding the customer and their challenges.

I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I’ve had with executive assistants who have shared their observations of the things that are happening in the organization. People who have key insights that bridge the gap of what we are being told, and what’s really happening. These people have been among the most important in helping me understand and create value with my clients and customers.

Another role we overlook (at least when we are face to face), are the receptionists. Some years ago, a sales person had a scheduled meeting with me. He arrived early, told the receptionist about the meeting, and waited a few minutes until I was ready. He used his time making some calls.

When time for the meeting came, it was about a 5 minute walk from the front lobby to my office. While he was walking to the office, the receptionist called saying, “Dave, you should be aware of how this person is talking about you and our company…..” Because this sales person thought this receptionist was unimportant; because he didn’t think he needed to present himself professionally from the moment he entered the lobby. He crippled his ability to gain my trust and confidence in his engagement with us.

Within our customers, there are so many peripheral players, that while not key to the decision, can be very important to our efforts. I can’t begin to count the number of junior engineers, plant floor workers, branch bankers, nurses, junior purchasing agents, junior accountants, and others that have been very helpful in our work. They see what’s really happening, they help give us a deeper understanding of those issues, what they mean, and how we can create greater value with our customers.

Some years ago Tom Peters and Robert Waterman familiarize us with the concept of MBWA. We might think of adapting this to LBWA (Learning By Walking Around.)

No one is unimportant, they may just not be involved in a decision, but each person can help us understand–and help us be understood.

Jun 23 22

Flexible Persistence

by David Brock

Reading an outstanding article by Reid Hoffman, False Choices, one term leaped out to me—flexible persistence. It’s such an important and powerful concept.

As sellers and managers we get, possibly to a fault, the concept of persistence. We know that success is based on constant and consistent execution of our strategies. We know we will face challenges and resistance–from our people and customers, but that we can’t give up. We know we won’t succeed by doing things randomly, but we must have a structured disciplined approach, that we execute every day, every week, every quarter.

We develop our go to customer strategies, we develop our engagement processes, our selling processes. We develop our scripts, cadences, and execute them constantly.

And that persistence is important, serving us–until it doesn’t.

At some point it breaks down. The things that used to work, don’t work quite as well. But we persist, doing those things because that’s the way we’ve always done them. We persist by doubling down, doing these things with greater intensity, greater volume, and greater velocity.

And we persist in doing things that, increasingly, don’t work.

Mistakenly, too often when we recognize this, it’s too late, or we abandon everything, flailing out randomly, trying to recover.

When one contrasts this with consistent high performers, a common quality leaps out, flexible persistence. High performers never act randomly. They are actually extremely disciplined and structured. They leverage processes and tools that consistently work and produce results.

They are persistent in their execution of these, yet at the same time they do it with flexibility or adaptability. They recognize situations and contexts differ, and they must adjust what they do to accommodate those differences. They recognize no script can handle everything, instead having a consistent set of dialogs that have been adjusted to maximize meaning and engagement.

Likewise, leaders recognize persistence in the focus, priorities, strategies is critical to driving growth. But they also recognize that blind persistence is dangerous. They constantly assess what’s working and what’s not, being flexible in shifting directions, shifting strategies and methods to more effectively produce the results needed.

Persistence is important, flexible persistence enables us to adapt and change based on shifts in our customers, markets, competition.

Jun 23 22

The Coming Recession….

by David Brock

I’m starting to get “those” calls. Execs are asking for advice. They are expecting difficult times, they are trying to figure out how to deal with the uncertainty in the economy that all of us face.

We’re already seeing the early signs of it. Layoffs, before unimaginable, are happening and more are preparing for reductions. Where a few months ago we were scrambling for talent, comp was skyrocketing to attract the right people; now we are seeing job offers being withdrawn.

Execs are also asking, “How do we maintain sales, how do we keep driving revenue as much as possible? We anticipate budgets will be cut, what had been important and urgent before, remains important but is no longer urgent. Funded projects will be put on hold or abandoned. Opportunities we and our customers have been working on will disappear.”

In many of my discussions about how to deal with these issues, execs are saying, “We have to double down on our value propositions!” For years, I’ve talked about the concept of “the pain of doing nothing must be greater than the pain of change.” I’ve focused on developing business cases and justifications to put dollars and cents to those arguments and to drive high sense of urgency to help customers make that change.

And in a tough economy, those issues become even more important. We need to help our customers address those issues. We need to help them reduce costs, maintain/grow productivity, find ways of maintaining and growing revenue, drive performance and productivity.

So building these compelling business cases become more important in tough economic times.

As compelling as these business cases are, customers will still struggle. And our natural reaction is to double down on the business case, on the costs of not taking action. After all, these are even more important in tough times.

But the problem is, this strategy won’t work!

As compelling as the business case is, as much as the customer buys into the business case, that’s not what they are concerned about. They get it, they don’t disagree–they helped develop this.

But that’s not what bothers the customer in tough times.

What bothers them is simply, “Am I/We doing the right thing?”

Stated differently, it’s decision confidence.

In tough times, the uncertainty, indecision, lack of confidence around whether they are doing the right thing become so much more important than in good times (and it’s very important them).

The consequences of making a bad decision or the wrong decision are much greater in tough times than they are in good times. The risks are higher. The uncertainty is greater. The competition for limited funding is greater.

Questions like, “Will this really produce the results we expect? Is this the right thing to do now? Should we be focusing on completely different issues? What will happen if we choose poorly?”

These are the issues that paralyze the customer and keep them moving forward. And no matter how strong the business case and justification is, until we help the customers address these issues, they will not, and should not move forward.

It turns out the greatest value we create in these times is not the fantastic business case for our solution (that’s table stakes, we have to have that), but the value we create is all about helping the customer be confident in their decision, that they have chosen well and that they are doing the right thing.

As we rethink our strategies in a tougher economy, we do need compelling value and business cases for our solutions. But the real issue in getting a decision is how the customer feels about the decision they are making, how we address the fears, uncertainty, and concerns that are magnified in tough times.

For leaders and sales enablement professionals, what are you doing to help your teams understand and address decision confidence and indecision?

For sellers, are you having the conversations that bring these fears to the forefront. Are you helping your customers build their confidence not that they have chosen correctly, but that they are doing the right thing?

Afterword: Need help with this? Give me a call, we’ve been working on this for sometime, helping clients change the way they engage their customers, not just with the value created by the solutions, but in creating value with customers as they deal with these very difficult and deeply personal issues.