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Jul 28 21

It Really Isn’t About The Numbers!

by David Brock

All of us focus on the “numbers.” We are driven to “make the numbers,” because those are our goals and we are driven to achieve our goals. When we miss the numbers, we panic, we whip ourselves into a frenzy of activity to do more–all in service of making the numbers. When we achieve our numbers, we “high 5,” start thinking about the President’s club, maybe even the accelerators we might achieve by surpassing the numbers.

The challenge is we become slaves to hitting the number, often forgetting to understand what the numbers mean.

It’s the things we do, how well we do them, who we do them to/with, when we do them and why we do them that produces an outcome, usually measured by a number.

When we miss the number or goal, it’s rare that we take the time to understand the things that created that outcome. We don’t assess whether we are doing the right things as effectively as we could be–or could we improve how we do those things. Or whether we are doing those things with the right people, or at the right time.

We don’t diagnose why we aren’t achieving our goals, what we need to change, or do better.; what we might be doing wrong and need to stop doing.

Or, more importantly, are they even the right things any more? Have things changed? Have our customers changed? Has the competition changed? Is what we thought was effective or impactful no longer so?

Or is there simply a different, more effective way of doing things?

We face the same problem when we make our numbers. While we are pleased for achieving the goal, how often do we consider, “Could we be doing more? Could we be doing better? Are we achieving our full potential?”

I’m working with a marvelous client right now. By virtually every measure, they are doing great! They are growing at double digits, achieving their goals, in many cases overachieving them. They are growing faster than the competition, taking share from them.

But the executive team has challenged them with the question, “Could we/Should we be doing more? Are we missing opportunities with our current customers? Are we missing opportunities to do things differently, achieving more?”

Top performers, whether individuals or organizations, recognize it really isn’t about the numbers. They are important, but they are just an indicator. They don’t tell you what has caused them. They don’t tell you if you can do more or be better.

We have to pay attention to the numbers, they are an “alert” system. When we aren’t making them, something(s) aren’t working as they should or things may have changed. When we are making them, we should challenge ourselves to improve, to set new goals/numbers and figure out what we need to do to achieve them.

It really isn’t about the numbers, it’s all about what we do that causes those outcomes and creates the number.

Jul 27 21

What If They Aren’t Looking?

by David Brock

We know that customers are moving increasingly to a digital buying journey, supported by sales. We all leverage the web and digital buying as much as possible–largely because of the convenience, often because we can get deeper insight and learning through our digital searches, rather than seeing a sales person.

The customer’s digital buying journey is critical to all of us in sales and marketing. 

First, the customer is indicating their potential interest through their search and digital engagement. Even if they aren’t yet ready to buy, just the fact they are searching gives us a huge opportunity to engage, educate, build relationships.

If we do things right, the customer wants us to jump on board, becoming part of their buying journey. They consume our content, we track their digital engagement, we try to intercept them with the most appropriate digital and non digital resources. We try to predict where they will show up, hoping to intercept them at the right place, at the right time, with the appropriate content and conversations.

We pay a lot of attention to increasing our visibility to customers embarking on this journey. SEO becomes important. We need to hit the top of search pages when the customer types in those magic search words. Social channels become important, we try to show up, socially, where the customers show up. We want to both teach and influence, but we also want to convert that digital engagement to sales engagement.

We continue to refine our content and engagement channels hoping to dominate as much of the customer time as possible in this digital buying journey, ideally maximizing the number of customers that find us and want to engage us.

We can do very powerful things (as well as inflict a lot of crap) on customers that have decided to look at things differently and have begun to search.

But what about those customers that aren’t looking? They aren’t going to Google and typing the magic words into the search. Our emails are spammed because they don’t know they should care.

The largest part of the buying potential isn’t with those customers who have self identified and are at some stage of learning, changing, buying. The largest opportunity are with those people who don’t know they should be looking. They don’t know there may be a better or different way to do things. They may not even recognize they have a problem and must change. Or they may just be too busy with the day to day, they don’t take the time to look into the future or consider thinking differently.

But if they aren’t looking and don’t know they should be, how to we find them, reach out to them, incite them to change, perhaps even to start a buying journey. We can’t wait for them to find us, because they aren’t looking.

We have to reach them proactively, we have to find some way of engaging them, attracting their attention, getting them to learn something new. We have to find some way to begin to incite them to begin that digital buying journey.

We’re well practiced in the things that don’t work in inciting this change. We inflict millions of emails, texts, social media messages, phone calls on unsuspecting people, “I’d like to talk to you about buying my stuff…….!” We know, when we think about it, how dull and ineffective it is. If they don’t know they might have a need, they won’t respond. Yet we continue to inflict millions of “buy my stuff” messages on people who aren’t buying.

I get inundated with messages from people trying to get me to buy something. Most of them are just plain bad. However, a small number may be relevant to me–except I don’t know it yet. I don’t yet recognize I might change.

We don’t incite customers to change, to begin a buying journey by talking about what we sell and do. Instead, we have to focus on what the customer does–or more importantly, what they should be doing.

What changes are their customers going through which could impact them positively or negatively? What is happening in their markets that they should be concerned about? What should they be thinking about, and why should they be thinking about them?

Sometimes, it’s not us that should be delivering that message, because they aren’t looking to people like us for these changes. It may be an industry leader that’s talking differently and doing different things. It may be a respected expert talking about issues they are seeing. It may be their peers at some sort of event, sharing ideas and concerns.

You might be thinking, “We do this already, we get references, we get testimonials, we sponsor speakers and influencers to talk about us and how great we are…..”

But we are asking them to talk about the wrong thing!

Instead of talking about us, they need to be talking about the industry, the markets, risks they see, things that are changing, things they are doing and things they are concerned with. They may talk about their strategies, their points of view, actions they are taking to respond to change.

We don’t incite people to buy our products. We incite them to look at things differently. We incite them to think about change. We incite them to ask themselves, “What if…., I wonder about…., Why…. Am I missing something, What should I be worried about….What should I be thinking about….? We incite them to learn,

Until we incite customers to begin asking themselves those questions, they will never search. Until they begin asking those questions, they won’t know they should follow up to learn more. Until they begin the process of re-thinking, nothing we do is relevant or interesting to them.

The digital buying journey never happens, search doesn’t begin, customers don’t commit to change until they have first been incited to re-think things.

What are you doing to inspire that? How are you helping them, while they might not yet know it, to begin searching–ultimately to want to find and engage you?

Afterword: This was originally published on July 19, 2021. Due to a site error, all July posts were lost. I’m republishing them. Thanks for your patience.

Jul 27 21

Are We Underperforming Our Potential?

by David Brock

It’s the end of the quarter, we’ve hit our numbers. We take a moment to celebrate, high 5 each other and revel in the success. And hopefully, we repeat the performance the following quarter, then hit our numbers for the year. We’ve met our goals!

But what if we could have done more? Not just exceeding our quotas, but what if we reassessed what we do, how we do it, and realized that we really should be doing much better? That our goals actually were too low.

Recently, I wrote that Buying Is Broken. The majority of buying journeys actually end in failure. The customer abandons the project and doesn’t change. If we are making our numbers, in spite of this high failure rate on the part of customers trying to buy, couldn’t we actually be achieving far more than what we have achieved? If we helped our customers become more successful in their buying efforts, we could drive even more business.

At any time, only a minority of customers that should be buying are actually buying–or attempting to buy. But the majority may be so busy just getting through their days. Alternatively, they may not be aware that they could/should change–that there are opportunities for them to improve and grow. What if we incited them to change.

Too often, we are so focused on hitting our numbers, that we miss the real opportunity and can grow even more than the goals we have set for ourselves. What if we recognized that the potential is far greater than our goals and put in place strategies to seize that opportunity–or to set far higher goals?

There’s the dark side of underperforming the potential.

Let me walk through a very typical example. Not long ago, I was sitting with an executive team. We were looking reviewing their performance. We looked at the prior quarter forecast–they had committed to make $1 Billion for the quarter–and they made their number (high fives all around). But then I started looking at how they had made the $1 B they had committed:

  • At the beginning of the quarter, they had put together a forecast for the $1B. They identified the opportunities they would win to achieve that goal.
  • At the end of the quarter, we found about 50% of the deals they forecast actually came in.
  • 20% of the deals they forecast slipped into a later quarter.
  • Close to 25% of the deals they had forecast winning, they actually lost (Hmmmmmm)!
  • To close the gap, they started scrambling, they increased upsold some of the committed deals, increasing the revenue from those. They pulled opportunities from the following quarter into the current quarter–some of that involved offering big incentives. They scrambled to find new opportunities they could close quickly (e.g. upsell, cross sell to current customers).

We looked at previous quarters and started noticing the same patterns, they were reasonably consistent in hitting their numbers (or getting very close to them). But the way they made their numbers was always very different than the way they planned to make their numbers.

We recognized no forecast will ever be perfect, but we started asking ourselves some questions:

  • How could only 50% of what we thought would happen actually happened? What happened to the other 50%, how could we be so far off?
  • How can we be losing so many of the deals that we had committed we could win? What were we doing wrong? What could we do to win those deals–or at least have a more realistic perspective of our likelihood of winning?
  • While the number of deals that slipped was relatively small, what could we do to minimize the slippage?
  • The biggest issue was, the team had “found” opportunities to close the gap. They were able to move deals forward, they were able to create new deals, they some how made things happen to hit the number. Why weren’t they doing this as normal behavior? Why weren’t they looking at moving those forward all the time, not just to fill a hole in the forecast? Why weren’t they forecasting these?

We saw the same thing quarter after quarter. We recognized that while we were hitting the goal, we actually were underperforming the potential. We could actually sell more!

Now, I’m not arguing that we set outrageous or unrealistic goals. But what I am suggesting is that while we are satisfied with hitting our numbers, it’s important to look at how we are making them, exploring the question, “Can we or should we actually be doing more with the same resources?” 

What if we could help more customers succeed in their buying journeys? We are already investing the time in working with them, but maybe we are focusing on the wrong things?

What if we incited more people to buy? What if we could create a higher sense of urgency to do something now?

Are we performing as well as possible in the deals we have qualified and are pursuing?

Are we achieving our full potential? Are we growing at the rate we should rather than doing what we can?

Afterword: This was originally published on July 14, 2021. Due to a site error, all July posts were lost. I am republishing them. Thanks for your patience.

Jul 27 21

Buying Is Broken, What’s This Mean For Selling?

by David Brock

It’s so intriguing, we see our customers and prospects struggling with buying. According to research, the majority of the time they fail in their buying journey, abandoning it.

And this is for people/organizations that recognize the need to change. It doesn’t account for those customer that don’t recognize they have problems and should change.

Buying is, without a doubt, broken!

One would think this would drive a change in how we sell. After all, if buyers aren’t succeeding in buying, it seems to achieve our goals we need to help them fix this problem. We need to help them succeed more often in their buying efforts.

Instead, we seem to be driven to do more and more of the same things. We increase the volume and velocity of our actions hoping to sell more. But this isn’t helping our customers fix their buying problems. In fact, it tends to have the opposite effect, it turns buyers off, possibly aggravating their challenge in buying.

Ironically, the issues causing buyers to fail has little to do with product/solution selection. Too often, they fail far before they reach the point of even evaluating solutions. They fail because they get lost in the process, they can’t manage the internal politics/agendas of people involved in the buying process, they get diverted and shift priorities (though the need hasn’t disappeared), they don’t know what they should be doing. They fail through fear and not understanding or managing the risks.

Yet we continue to pitch our products/solutions.

It seems we are caught in a death spiral, increasing failure rates in buyers buying, selling approaches that don’t help the buyers, instead aggravating the problem.

How would our sales results change if instead of doing what we have always done, we shifted our focus to help buyers succeed in their buying efforts?

What if instead of pitching our products, we help the customer better understand and define the problem they want/need to solve or the opportunity they want to address? 

What if we helped them learn more about the business issues, how others are addressing the same issues, where the challenges/risks might be as they move forward?

What if we helped them organize their buying effort? We might help them identify who should be involved. We might help them align the objectives and agendas of the team. We might help them develop and execute a project plan to achieve their goal.

What if we helped them identify the potential failure points in the buying journey, suggesting ways they might avoid or address them? If buyers increase their success rate in buying, inevitably, it would drive our sales success.

Until buyers become more successful in buying, our success is limited. Shouldn’t we be helping them solve those problems?

Afterword: This post was originally published on July 13, 2021. Due to a site error, all July posts were lost. I am republishing them. Thanks for your patience.