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Jul 13 20

Solving The Communication Challenge

by David Brock

“The future is virtual,” seems to be the conclusion many are reaching as a result of the pandemic. I don’t disagree–at least virtual meetings leveraging tools like Zoom, Teams, or the dozens of other tools, will be a large part of how we engage customers. (I actually prefer thinking the future is digital, which addresses the engagement process more broadly than video meetings.)

I suspect decades ago, people said, “The future is the telephone,” and the telephone has become an important part of how we engage others.

But we, still have a huge communication challenge/gap, the video based tools currently don’t address—or that we are overlooking.

We need to focus less on the technology, but more on human to human interaction. How do we work together to get things done?

It’s said that 93% of human communication is non verbal. 7% is about what we say, the rest of it is how we say it–both our tone of voice and the myriad of body language, facial expressions, and other cues we get or give when we are speaking.

But it’s more complex than that. That data point focuses primarily on the speaker and how others might perceive the speaker. But what about the other communications that occur in meetings? The body language of each participant as they are listening to the speaker, the body language and other cues that others in the meeting are expressing.

In meetings, it’s common to “read” the room, looking at how people interact with each other, how they engage/disengage, and with who.

So much of what happens in the meeting and how we get things done isn’t in the content of the meeting itself, it’s in the sidebar conversations, in the nods and signals participants use with each other, in the conversations we have in breaks, getting coffee or at lunch.

In our meetings, we use all our senses, not just our voices and our images. We use our experience, instincts, our emotions. We value, in fact crave human to human interaction–not just the words each of us says to each other, but the experience of engaging with other people.

We already see data about mental health challenges, increases in physical illness, all attributable to the feelings of isolation people are experiencing through remote work.

Clearly, virtual tools and virtual meetings have an important place in helping us engage each other and our customers. But communication, engagement, work itself is far more than a video meeting.

Virtual is part of our future as sales people, digital is critical to our and our customers’ futures. But people and human to human communications are core to who we are, how we engage, and how we work. We can’t ignore this.

Jul 10 20

It’s Not The Customer’s Job To Figure Out How You Help!

by David Brock

I am looking for some software tools to help our team. After listening to about 4 suppliers, I’m about to give up, it’s probably easier, cheaper to do nothing.

As I reflect on our conversations:

  1. We’ve talked about our needs, what we are looking for, and what we hope to achieve. Sales people seem to be nodding their heads in the right direction, I take this for understanding.
  2. I’ve sat through endless corporate glamor presentations. You know the one’s that show logos of huge companies and talk about how great their companies are. Those logos are meaningless to me, those companies are very different from mine. I suspected the companies were OK, we did our homework in narrowing to those 4 companies.
  3. I’ve been victim of endless pitches about, “here are the features and functions of our product.”
  4. I’ve sat through 4 demos of what they wanted to show me, not what we think we’d like to do with these solutions.
  5. I’ve asked, “What do these things mean for what we want to do?” The responses are about what the product does, not how we use the product for what we want to do.
  6. My team sits after these meetings trying to figure out if these solutions enable us to achieve what we want to do. We go back to the sales people with questions, they tell us about their products?
  7. I ask, “What can we expect the business impact will be if we implement the your solution? How much time should we be able to save? How much can it improve the quality of our work?” The sales people tell me what their product does.
  8. Each of the sales people have suggested I could get a discount if I make the decision this month, but I still don’t know what results the solution will help us produce. My team is trying to figure it out.

It’s not my job to figure out how I get the results I want from something a sales person is trying to sell me. But somehow, sales people are making it my job.

I wonder if they will give me a discount because I’m doing so much of their work for them. Maybe I should send them a consulting bill?

Jul 8 20

Prospecting Malpractice!

by David Brock

There is no excuse for stupid prospecting! Sadly, too many organizations are committed to prospecting malpractice.

None of us can escape or have spam filters powerful enough to filter out the stupid, irrelevant prospecting that is inflicted on us on a daily basis. Our emails, phones, texts, social channels overflow with poorly designed and abysmally executed prospecting.

The only explanation for poorly targeted, irrelevant prospecting is that organizations simply don’t care or are too lazy to do their jobs. They don’t do their homework in segmenting and targeting, they don’t do their homework in understanding key personas, they don’t do their homework in creating relevant, high impact messages.

We know the following:

  1. Customers most interested in what we have to sell are those in our ICP.
  2. The further we get out of the ICP, the less effective/impactful we are.
  3. Customers are interested in relevant content, insights. They are interested in learning how they might improve and achieve their goals.
  4. Some level of personalization is critical in making sure we are engaging prospects with the greatest impact.
  5. We have to provide information relevant to their role and the circumstances they are facing.
  6. Customers will leverage multiple channels to learn about new solutions, so we have to be engaging the customer consistently across multiple channels.
  7. We know we have to engage prospects multiple times, building their understanding of the issues.
  8. Customers don’t care about our products, they care about their businesses and problems.

But there’s more, there are countless tools that enable us to more effectively target and engage our prospects. Virtually every organization has marketing and sales automation tools to segment and improve their targeting. Analytic tools and web based services enable us to profile and understand both the enterprises and individuals we are targeting. Content management tools enable us to personalize and tailor communications, across many channels, that are relevant and higher impact.

So we know what to do, we know how to do it, and we have the tools and capabilities to do those things that engage customers in impactful ways.

Yet time after time, in initiative after initiatives, we fail to do the things we know we should be doing, we fail to leverage the tools we are paying for to improve our abilities to do these things.

It’s too easy to blame sales people or marketing people for these flawed practices. But it’s really top marketing and sales management that is to blame. They are providing the direction and “leadership” for these efforts. They aren’t paying attention to doing the things they know will produce results, instead looking for volume and velocity, creating endlessly more irrelevant communications.

This is nothing less than malpractice. This is the result of leaders who are choosing not to do the things they know they must do. They are the result of leaders who are paying for the most advanced technology platforms, yet aren’t using those platforms to achieve the results they could.

One might argue, that senior leaders may not be aware of these things, but this would mean they aren’t measuring results, they aren’t drilling into the data to understand why they aren’t achieving the results they should. They aren’t paying attention or they don’t care!

We can and must do better than this. Pragmatically, we are just making our jobs tougher, we get less from what we do, so we have to do more to get what we need (yes, the volume and velocity challenge). We spend more and more to produce less or stay even.

We are making it more difficult for ourselves by driving customers and prospects away. We are so irrelevant in our outreach or so bad in our executing our engagement strategies that customers not only ignore our efforts, they ignore our brands. They don’t want to talk to us because we have demonstrated our lack of caring and professionalism.

We are being irresponsible to our own companies. We are supposed to do the things which we know produce results, doing those things as efficiently and effectively as possible. Yet we choose to do what’s expedient, easy or what everyone else does.

We can do better, we must do better–for ourselves, our customers, and our companies.

Jul 8 20

My New Book, Complex B2B Selling

by David Brock

A reader asked me, “Dave, when are you publishing a book on complex B2B selling? I’d really like to see something from you.”

I thought about it a moment, I hadn’t thought of doing a book on the topic. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the topic–and look at how little they have really contributed to changing how we sell and improving our ability to create great value.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many very good books available, some written by close friends. We can learn a lot from some of them. But how different are they, and taken collectively, how much impact have they had on improving our effectiveness with customers?

But, the idea challenged me, if I were to write a book on complex B2B selling, what would I write, how might I create something that would have a real impact on how we engage customers and move them through their buying process. What would be different?

Here are some thoughts:

  1. First, I would not make it about “selling.” Selling is a construct that means something to sales people, but means nothing to customers. We embed a whole bunch of words that immediately put a chasm between sellers and everyone else. We talk about our selling process, we talk about techniques and things like prospecting, qualifying, objection handling, closing. We create a whole set of processes, techniques and language that is foreign to everyone but sellers.
  2. Rather than creating something that reinforces the communication chasm between sellers and everyone else, I’d try to do something that eliminates that chasm. I’d try to write a book that eliminated that gap, aligning buyers and sellers. This means using words, techniques, processes that our customers understand and use.
  3. I’d start by never talking about the selling process. In fact, I’d never talk about the buying process–that only applies when the customer has decided to buy. And so much of our work needs to be about inciting the customer to buy. I’d talk about how “we” identify problems, opportunities to more effectively achieve goals. I’d focus on project management and how we establish goals, milestones, and critical activities. That’s what people in non selling roles do when they want to accomplish something, when they want to drive change, or even when they want to buy. They frame things in project and project management terms. So it makes sense for sellers to do the same thing.
  4. Then I’d eliminated terms like qualifying and BANT. I’d focus on how we collaborate in committing to change. Likewise, I wouldn’t talk about things like objection handling and closing. Those are foreign, and distasteful to non sellers. I would talk about agreement, disagreement, and managing conflict.
  5. I’d look at things that impact our abilities to successfully manage projects to achieve their goals. These might include topics on collaboration, facilitation. I’d realize projects are often about addressing new opportunities, solving problems or continuous improvement. So rather than using selling techniques or words that are meaningful to only sales people, I would use the same words and tools the customers are already using to do those things.
  6. I wouldn’t talk about prospecting, that’s meaningful to sellers in finding new opportunities. But non sellers think of the same thing using different words, they may be strategic initiatives, they may be research projects, they may be experiments.
  7. I would look at measuring sales success differently, not necessarily limited to the value of a PO. I’d think about sales success in the same way customers think about success, did they achieve their goals on time and budget? After all, we don’t get a PO until the customer has gotten through their work.
  8. I’d focus on change. Selling is really not about selling a product or service, but selling a customer on change. So why don’t we confront the issues on change, why change, what to change, how to change, how to manage change directly?
  9. Carrying off the previous point, we focus on our products and services, not change. Our products and services are means, not ends. When non sellers look at change, they are focused on the ends. The means are meaningless without having the end in mind. So we should be focusing, first, on the ends the customer is trying to achieve, then position the means to achieve them.
  10. I’d change the context of how we view what we do. When we talk about selling, selling processes, sales methodology, selling techniques; we tend to focus on what we do to the customers. When non sellers work together they talk about doing things with each other.

I’ll stop here. It seems everything we do when we talk about anything in complex B2B sales creates a chasm between how we act, speak, behave. and achieve and how our customers act, speak, behave, and achieve.

Rather than increasing the separation between sellers and everyone else, what if the next great book on B2B selling looked an eliminating that chasm by showing sellers how to align and work effectively with those who don’t sell. And the easiest way to do that is to use the language, processes and tools they use.

But those books already exist, I wonder how many sellers read and learn from them. I wonder how many sales enablement organizations leverage lessons from these in helping improve the skills of our sales people.

If we took this approach, we’d be reading and training on curiosity, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, project management, dealing with agreement/disagreement, change, risk management/mitigation.

Think about it for a moment. There is absolutely nothing we do as sellers that people in other roles don’t also have to do. We don’t have to invent new ways of doing those things that are unique to people who sell. Wouldn’t we be more effective not fighting them, but rather joining them in driving change and improvement.

Perhaps the best books to help people involved in complex B2B selling have nothing to do with Complex B2B selling. Perhaps, if we just read and talked about what our customers talk about, we’d be more effective.

What do you think?