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Dec 3 21

The Webinar…..

by David Brock

I received an email from someone I respect. It was for a webinar on a very intriguing issue around Digital Transformation. Since I respect this individual and he had an interesting panel of guest speakers, I decide I would sign up for it.

I filled the enrollment form, and was about to hit the “Enroll” button. I noticed the “sponsors” for the webinar. I knew what would happen, the moment I hit the “enroll” button. I hesitated, thinking, “Is this webinar likely to be so good that I am voluntarily opening myself to the onslaught the follows when I hit enter?”

Against my better judgment, I submitted my enrollment.

You can guess what happened in the next 30 seconds.

I got an email from each of the sponsors. Each was nearly identical, “Thanks for your interest in our company!”

Not a single email referred to the webinar I enrolled in.

Each email followed the same format, “Our company is the market leader in these solutions…. Here are some links to learn more about our products….” Then the final link was a sign-up link for a demo.

Nothing in any of the emails referred to Digital Transformation, or the intriguing aspects that were being discussed in the webinar. Each was about them and their products.

The webinar is in two weeks. So I know I’ll get a lot of follow up emails from each of the sponsors, “Here’s more information about our products, can we talk, can we schedule a demo?”

I’m annoyed, but I’ve already set a filter to ignore their emails.

I’m not interested in their companies or their products. I’m interested in the topic and content of the webinar.

I’m always interested in these autoresponder email messages. I’ve already given them an indication of something I’m very interested in. I was interested enough to sign up for a webinar, or to download a white paper, or to look at a research report.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to engage me in a discussion about that thing that I’ve expressed interest in? Perhaps talking about something I have expressed interest in would lead to a discussion about how those issues connect to them and what they sell.

It seems pretty easy and obvious, but no one does it.

Instead, they talk about what about themselves and what they are interested in. They never make an attempt to bridge o my interest.

I’ve stopped downloading white paper from a very large CRM vendor. I can set my watch on the voicemail and emails I receive. And they are all the same. They never refer to what I downloaded (also, It hasn’t finished downloading when I get the first call, so I haven’t even had a chance to open it.). It’s always, “Thanks for your interest in our company, can I talk to you about your CRM systems?” Ironically, we are already a customer, but they don’t seem to know that.

It seems so fundamental to start the conversation with the customer/prospect by talking about what they are interested in. But 95% of the time, that never happens.

What am I missing?

Dec 2 21

How Do You Want To Be Sold?

by David Brock

Not long ago, I was on a Zoom call with a bunch of CROs. At some point in the conversation, someone started talking about all the inept prospecting being inflicted on her. She complained about the emails, the constant junk calls on her mobile, the inept and inappropriate LinkedIn and other social media outreaches.

Everyone piled on, sharing their experiences and their “favorite” bad prospecting ploys (Found a lot of great materials for Hank Barnes’ #FridayFails.)

All the things you would expect came up in the conversation, absence of targeting, lack of understanding about the company and the individual, poor writing, lack of relevance, constant pitching and prospector focus on themselves and their products. They also complained about the endless cadence of followups, “Did you get my last email… Did you get my text….Did you get my voicemail…. When can I schedule a demo….. Why aren’t you putting a meeting on my Calendly?”

The conversation was robust, with each person one upping the other about bad prospecting and how poorly the sales people prospected.

I suppose I was being a jerk (it’s easy for me to do that), but during a pause in the conversation I asked, “What are your people doing with their prospecting? Aren’t they doing the same things?”

There was a long pause……

“What do you mean, Dave,” someone asked?

“Have you ever been the victim recipient of prospecting from your company? Is it different?”

Again, there was a long pause…..

Finally, one of the CROs said, “You know, I actually don’t know how our people prospect. I mean, I know we have a lot of prospecting programs, we track the prospecting our people do. But I’ve never actually been on the receiving side of our prospecting programs.”

Here’s where I became a real jerk. For the past few years, I’ve kept a special email folder. I’ve got a lot of filters in place to get rid of the obvious junk. So I no longer receive email offers from Nigerian princes. But I still get “legitimate” prospecting emails from legitimate sales people in legitimate companies. As of today, I’ve received over 3700 emails in the past few years. I also keep a file of the bad LinkedIn prospecting outreaches.

I told the group this and offered, “I know I get a lot of prospecting from your organizations. What if we look at a few of them?”

It was a great group. They summoned up the collective courage to take a look at some of the prospecting, their organizations did. We went through a number of messages, I tried to spread the “pain” across as many of the participants as I could.

Fortunately, they had good humor and they were interested in learning. They were stunned by the messages their people were inflicting on their prospects and customers. One commented, “Now I understand why our results are so bad! And we tend to do the wrong thing, we need more leads so we just do more of the same thing, we don’t think about changing what we do!”

Sadly, we don’t really examine what we are actually doing in our prospecting. We look at the numbers, the response rates. We think in terms of MQLs, SQLs, number of dials, and so forth. But we don’t look at what we are doing and the prospectee experience.

How do we do this? It’s actually really simple:

  1. Consider finding a way to get on your own company’s mailing and prospecting lists. Maybe you have to develop a different “persona,” but look at what you are inflicting on your prospects and customers.
  2. Ask customers and prospects about their prospectee experiences. There are a variety of tools to do this.
  3. Stop managing to the numbers but understand what causes the numbers you get. So if you aren’t getting enough leads, don’t just increase the volume of prospecting, but look at what you are doing and consider changing it.

At the end of the conversation, we came up with a very simple conclusion to begin changing. We thought, perhaps there is a “Golden Rule” for prospecting and selling. It might look like:

Sell unto others as you would like to be sold to!

I think we, collectively, might be better if we just considered that simple rule.

Dec 1 21

It’s Prediction Season Again

by David Brock

It’s that time of year where it’s fashionable to make predictions about the big issues for sales, marketing, and customer experience. Various experts and “gurus” discuss their view of the “big issues,” we face and changes for the coming year.

Many are very good, some are intended to stir up controversy, some are promoting the offerings of the guru.

I have mixed feelings when people ask me for my predictions. Most of the time I feel like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day. It seems every year we go through the same thing–perhaps updated with new buzzwords or with a veneer of new technology, but at it’s core, the predictions are the same year after year.

This has been happening for almost 40 years. Yes, the technologies have changed, but the predictions have always included some version of technology that “changes” the world. We’ve gone through things like voicemail, PCs, email, mobile phones, the web, CRM, search, social, … up do AI/ML. All have been important, but none have changed the fundamental principles that drive effectiveness and performance.

Some of the other things have focused on the latest, greatest methodologies, inevitably a lot include finding and acquiring new customers.

They are all the same, but with new words and emphasis, year after year.

For a couple of months, these generate lots of discussion, but we continue doing what we have always done, focusing on our goals, pitching our products and making the number.

One would also expect, with the predictions, we would improve, we would get better. But we don’t seem to be. Quota performance continues to decline, customers are finding alternatives to working with sales people and even leveraging our content. Employee engagement and tenure are plummeting. In fact, for the past 5 years, one of the most popular predictions of “gurus” is the “death of sales.”

It’s difficult not be become cynical about all of this.

As a result, I’ve given up on predictions–they are meaningless.

Instead, I have three wishes. I hope to see changes–despite my pessimism in this post, I’m actually very optimistic.

Wish #1: Do the work! We seem to continually look for the “Easy Button.” So many of the predictions provide escapes from accountability and for actually doing the work. What we do in sales, marketing, customer experience is tough work! We are agents of change and people fear/resist change. There are no magic formulas or cures. While technologies and methodologies can help us connect and engage with greater impact, we still have to do the work. Somehow, we have a mindset that we want the job, we want the rewards associated with the job, but we don’t want to do the work. We want to just collect POs.

Wish #2: Listen to the customer! Our customers have, for decades, told us what they need from us and what they expect. They struggle with change, they struggle with buying, they need help in making sense of what they face and moving forward to achieve their goals. Customers tell us, every day, what we need to do to earn their business, we only need to listen and engage in ways that are meaningful to them. But instead, we focus on our goals and what we need to achieve, failing to recognize that until we help the customer achieve their goals, it’s impossible for us to achieve ours. (And managers must recognize their people are their customers.)

Wish #3: Care–care deeply! Care about what you do as individuals and collectively. Care about your customers and their success. Care about your peers and your people. Sales, marketing, customer experience—business has always been about people, yet we seem to have done as much as we can to remove the humanity from our interactions. Customers become widgets in our engagement processes. Our people are scripted replaceable widgets in our organizations. Yet it is the human connection that, ultimately, makes the difference. It drives engagement, change, confidence and our shared success.

I’ll stop with these three wishes. They’ve always been foundational principles to everything we do, yet we seem to forget them. However, if we focused on these things, we will create tremendous results–with our customers, our people and for ourselves.

As pessimistic as I may seem in my comments, I’m tremendously hopeful.

I’m privileged to work with organizations doing these things. They tend to be the consistent leaders in their industries and markets. They create organizations that create meaning and value with their customers. They create organizations that create meaning and value for their people, shareholders, and communities. These organizations serve as models to others that these three wishes are foundations to success.

I’m hopeful, also, because we see some forcing functions that force us to look at these foundational issues and change. Customers are (and always have been) in control. They are changing how they buy, forcing us to respond. They want help and they reward those that are, in fact, helpful.

The “Great Resignation,” is forcing us to re-examine our workplaces and how we create organizations and work that have meaning. It forces us to create organizations where people are valued, respected, challenged and can grow.

I’m no longer interested in predictions, we know what we need to do, we know what drives shared success and engagement. It’s time we paid attention and did those things.

Nov 25 21

Is The Future Of Selling PLG?

by David Brock

I read a lot of commentary from “experts” about PLG–Product Led Growth. Apparently, much of the “future of sales,” will be driven by PLG initiatives. I get why sales people revel in this. It leaves all the heavy lifting of “buying” to the customer.

PLG is great for sales. We don’t waste our time inciting people to change, to consider doing things differently. We don’t have to invest in understanding the customers’ businesses and challenges. We don’t have to help them determine their needs and priorities. We don’t have to help them organize themselves to buy and define their buying journey.

All that stuff is so messy and time consuming! We have to take the time to understand the customer–both as an organization and as individuals. After all, that defocuses us, we have to understand people-their aspirations, their fears, their problems and challenges. We have to understand business, what the organization is trying to achieve and what stands in the way of achieving those goals. Then there is the messiness of the buyers trying to organize themselves to buy and figure out what they want to do.

Afterall, with PLG,, our products lead, all we have to do is help the customer understand the superiority of our products. That’s where our expertise is. Learning about the customer, their markets, their industry is so distracting! Plus we aren’t measured on our customers’ success, we have quotas to sell products!

Focusing on PLG relieves us of so much work. But since the customer preference is a “digital buying journey,” we don’t have to worry about that. It’s marketing’s job to make sure customers find us when they are looking for solutions and products. It’s marketing’s responsibility to drive that interest, then we focus on convincing them of our product superiority!

But then, there are some challenges.

  • What if the customer isn’t searching or looking?
  • How do we achieve our goals if enough people aren’t interested in or finding our products? (Of course we can always blame marketing. Alternatively, we could blame product development for developing the wrong products.)
  • How do we differentiate ourselves in very competitive markets? Hopefully we have a couple of unique features our competition doesn’t have–we can focus on those in the demo, even if the customer doesn’t need them. Then we can always discount!
  • What if our product area isn’t “hot?”
  • Then there’s the competition for our jobs. We really become expendable, our managers can hire cheaper people to read the scripts and do the demos. And then there are the Chatbots, AI/ML that eliminate the need for PLG driven sales people.

From an overall business/sales strategy point of view, shouldn’t we really be concerned about a PLG led strategy?

We know the majority of customer buying journeys end in failure–and that failure has little to do with product selection! So there is so much more opportunity to address if we could “help” our customers successfully get to the product selection part of their buying journey. Plus, doing that might position us more favorably when they get to that part of their journey.

We know part of this problem is that customers are overwhelmed and confused by the sheer amount of high quality information. What if we could help them sort through that, determining what’s most important to them and what they can ignore.

We know that customers are worried about risk, they fear failure. And it’s less about the product they have chosen, but whether they have made the right decisions for the overall project/problem they are trying to address. Perhaps we could create value and drive greater customer success.

We know there is high buyer remorse. How do we help customers have greater confidence in the decision and path they have chosen.

Then we also know there the majority of the opportunity is with customers that haven’t recognized the need to change, that there are better ways to achieve their goals, that they might grow or find new opportunities. But they aren’t looking, they don’t realize they should be. How do we incent them to change and start the journey?

In summary, a PLG driven strategy represents a huge disconnect with the customer. Customers don’t set out to buy a product, they set out to solve a problem, to address an opportunity, to change. The product represents the smallest part of their challenge. As a result, we are minimizing our contribution to the customer success and the value we can create with them.

We’ ve been in this place for decades. We’ve always focused on pitching out products. We now have a cool acronym, PLG–continues to focus us on our growth and our success, with the customer being secondary. We optimize around our outcomes, not around helping the customer.

And we know customers don’t find this helpful, so they look other places for help. We’ve always known we can create greater value and success by helping the customer with their problem–but we consistently (except for a small number of high performers) ignore this opportunity to maximize our shared success.

Somehow, I think there is a better way.