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Oct 23 17

Is Social Selling Missing The Digital Revolution?

by David Brock

Step back a little more than a century as electricity was being commercialized.  I’m sure in bars and meeting rooms, sales people and marketers were talking about how wonderful electricity was and what it could do to improve sales and marketing.  I can imagine conversations like:

Sales person:  “We can now light up our displays at shows, so people can really see our products and how cool they are.  We could never do that with kerosene lamps or candlelight….”

Marketing person:  “We no longer have to work in the dark, we can work longer hours, producing more content for you to hand out to customers.  Imagine all the brochures, flyers, data sheets we can produce…..”

Customers were independently thinking:  “Now we can inspect these products more carefully, we can shine a bright light to make sure they are great quality….”

Roughly the same time, the telephone was coming into popularity.  Conversations probably were:

Sales person:  “Wow, now I don’t have to actually see the customer, if they have phones, I can just call them up……We can start a movement called telephone selling….”

Marketing people were probably equally excited:  “We need to get all their telephone numbers and start calling them every day about our products……”

And customers were independently thinking:  “Imagine if they invented something like Caller ID, I could avoid all these annoying calls…..”  (OK, I’m getting carried away.)

Those sales and marketing people learned these tools, electricity and the telephone, augmented and helped everything they did in selling and marketing.  It shifted a lot of investments into leveraging these technologies.  For example, the concept of the “traveling sales person,” was changed somewhat, but still a very important element of sales execution. After all, our ability to connect and communicate is still far more impactful face to face.

But electricity and the telephone weren’t just about sales and marketing.  They revolutionized the way we live, the way businesses work, and created literally millions of new opportunities for business, societies, and people.

Fast forward to today,  sales and marketing people are engaged in the same conversations–not surprisingly on social media–LinkedIn, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, and thousands of other sites and blogs. Our customers are embracing their digital buying journeys as well.  They leverage digital sources throughout their buying process–both out of convenience, because of the abundance of information, and out of avoidance–the desire to put distance between themselves and sales people.

Our conversations are similar to those imagined conversations decades ago, they focus on how we leverage social channels to sell and market, and how our customers leverage these channels to buy.

Ironically, these discussions rarely capture the bigger implications of the digital revolution in which these social tools actually play a very small part.

Digital Business Transformation impacts every one in the world, it impacts and is reshaping our businesses, societies, and cultures.  Just like the previous industrial revolutions, virtually everything will change.  Business models, that were once very successful, are being shattered.  Everything we thought worked in the past is being challenged.

Our own organizations and our customers’ are challenged with making sense of the opportunity digital business transformation presents.

Focusing only on our customers’ digital buying journeys or our own social selling efforts limits our abilities to understand and address the opportunities and challenges of digital business transformation.  It restricts our thinking for our own businesses–both how we leverage these tools and the solutions we offer.  It restricts the value we create in helping our customers make sense of their own digital business transformation.

Yes, we absolutely have to engage our customers in their digital buying journeys, we have to leverage these tools in our own selling and marketing.  But we can’t  stop there, we have to re-imagine whole new businesses, completely new solutions, and completely new ways of serving and engaging our customers.


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Oct 20 17

Managers, Your People Are Your Customers!

by David Brock

Some of you may be reading this title, having the reaction, “They work for me, they are responsible for producing the results I expect!”  It’s pretty much the “command and control” point of view too many managers still embrace.

Too much data points to this being entirely ineffective in leading and developing our people.  Plummeting employee engagement data (not just limited to sales), increasing voluntary attrition, terrible employee sat scores (too many organization are afraid to even measure this), and declining revenue/quota performance.

We need to treat our people just like we treat our customers…….

The thought just struck me, maybe we are?  Maybe because we treat our people just like we treat our customers is a reason why our sales results are so bad and our voluntary attrition is so high.

We know we are supposed to be customer centric, focusing on things that are important to our customers.  Yet we struggle in doing this, focusing instead on what’s important to us.

As managers, perhaps we are guilty of doing the same.  We focus on what we need, what’s important to us and not what’s important to our people.

We’re focused on getting the reports we want, accurate forecasts, getting the activity levels we think are important, telling them what we think they should be doing.

What would happen if we started focusing, instead, on them?  What if we understood what their problems are, what is standing in the way of their success, and how we can help them achieve their goals and dreams?

What if we started coaching more effectively, rather than telling them what to do or expecting them to report to us, we engaged them differently, more collaboratively in helping them achieve their goals?

When you step back a moment to reflect.  The principles of great sales management are very much aligned with the principles of great insight driven, solutions focused, consultative selling.  By focusing on our people, helping them solve their problems and achieve their goals, we managers will achieve ours.

Reflect a moment longer.  Perhaps the example we set by putting our people first will enable our people to become more customer centric in their own approaches.

There’s an interesting ripple effect (actually supported by a lot of research).  How we treat/hold our employees is very closely aligned with how we treat/hold our customers.  Organizations with bad employee satisfaction/engagement have bad customer satisfaction/engagement.

Perhaps the trick to being truly customer focused starts simply with being truly employee focused.


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Oct 18 17

Guiding Our Customers On The Wrong Buying Journey

by David Brock

I have to start this post with a story.  I’m an obsessed reader.  At least once a week, I have to sign into Amazon to feed my reading habit.  On logging in, I’m immediately fed suggestions of books I should buy.  Always, they’re in similar categories:  The latest in sale/marketing/leadership, biographies, history.  Yes, there are also the mystery/spy novels (Daniel Silva, Lee Childs, Vince Flynn, John LeCarre, and so forth).

This selection of recommended books makes sense.  70% of the time, the books I buy are in one of those categories.  But every once in a while, go to Amazon, without providing any clue of who I am.  I use a private browser, I make sure there are no cookies, I don’t sign on.  What happens then is absolutely amazing.  I get fed a completely different set of recommendations.  Books in categories I don’t normally peruse.  Inevitably, I find wonderful books that broaden my horizons and give me completely different perspectives.

In reality, recently, I’ve started my searches anonymously, because sometimes the Amazon recommendations get in the way of helping me learn things I should be learning, but didn’t realize it.

Moving to the point of this article, I think much of our use of web and other analytics creates a similar problem for our customers and how we engage them.  Increasingly, the best marketing organizations are using very sophisticated analytics to understand the interests of prospects and customers, constantly serving up the content they are most likely to want.

For example, I may download certain white papers, I may go to certain parts of the web site, I may look at certain articles at the site.  All the time, my activity is being tracked.  Based on that activity, I am being served up content that’s aligned with my journey and search.  It’s exactly like Amazon serving up recommendations based on past purchases.

It makes a huge amount of sense.  We want to get the right content to our prospects and customers.   We want to make sure it is easy for them to find the things they are most likely to be interested in.

But there’s a huge risk to this.  All of this is based on an assumption about the digital search habits of our customers.

The assumption is, they know what they should be looking for.

But the challenge is, at least very early in their buying cycles, they don’t know what they don’t know.  As a result, they may be missing very important things in their digital journeys.  Their searches are constrained by what they think they should be looking for, and what they think their problem may be.  But they are constrained by what they don’t know.

In trying to be helpful and responsive to our customers, in trying to engage them, we feed them content based on what they want and what they are looking for.  As a result, however well intended, we actually may be leading them astray.  We may not be helping them understand the questions they should be asking but aren’t, the things they should be researching, but were simply unaware of.

It’s the root of insight, helping our customers learn things they should know/need to know, but simply didn’t know they should be looking for those things.

As sales people, we immediately recognize this problem.  We recognize when customers are missing something really important about the problem they are trying to solve.  We engage the customer with things like, “Have you ever considered looking at things in a slightly different way?”  or “Most organizations addressing similar problems have found these issues to be important, have you considered how they might impact you?”

Leveraging CEB’s mantra, we need to “teach, tailor, take control.”

We need to engage our customers in their digital journeys in a similar fashion.  We absolutely need to provide the content and information they are looking for.  But we also need to find ways to serve up the information they should be looking for, but aren’t, simply because they didn’t know.

We can track their digital footprints and we can make recommendations.  We can serve up content they wouldn’t normally have looked for because they didn’t know.  We can say, “Other customers have found this to be very useful, in addition to the other things you are looking at.”

The same tools we use to personalize customers’ digital buying journeys can be leveraged to help them expand their journeys, teaching them things they need to know, but didn’t know they needed to know.

By doing this, we create greater value and enhance their digital buying journeys.


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Oct 17 17

When The Manager Is The Problem Performer

by David Brock

Every organization has challenges with problem performers.  However, too few address these performance issues–at least until the impact of the problem performance is devastating to the organization.

A problem sales person can, easily, have an adverse impact of over a million dollars.  The “cost” is not just the lost opportunity in their own territories, but the drag they create on their peers and managers has an impact, as well.  Problem performers drag down morale and performance of their peers.  Problem performers take a lot of management time–unless managers aren’t paying attention, in which case the manager is a problem performer, as well (more on this in a moment.).  Not addressing problem performers creates a drag on the organization.

But what if the problem performer is the manager?

Regardless the size of the organization, sales managers who are problem performers are devastating, whether they are front line sales managers or the top sales exec.  The negative impact of a bad manager can include:

Inconsistent/unsustainable results:  A bad manager can create great short-term results, that’s part of the challenge in understanding the impact of bad managers.  They can bully, use brute force, or leverage any variety of techniques to get results in the short-term.  The problem, however, is these are seldom sustainable.  After the bad manager has done everything they can, how do they sustain the results.  Turning over the people in the organization may provide temporary help, but at tremendous cost.  Over time, because the manager hasn’t built the team and it’s capabilities, because the manager hasn’t focused on engaging the people, building morale, building capability and capacity; it becomes impossible to create results.

Drive away good people:  Read any survey on leadership,  a leading reason people leave organizations is not for better opportunities or money, people leave because of bad management.  People want to work in organizations aligned with their interests and goals.  They want to contribute, they want to grow.  They want managers interested in their success and development, not just focused on the manager’s own success.  They want recognition.  Bad managers don’t do these things–as a result good people look for new opportunities that are more fulfilling.

A derivative impact is the organization is left with mediocre or poor performers.  Yes, perhaps the bad manager fires or lays off poor performers, but there is a group of poor/mediocre performers that keep their heads down.  They can’t get great jobs in other organizations, so they do what they can to survive.  Unfortunately, they won’t improve overall organizational performance.

Bad managers tend to attract people like them:  We all tend to hire in our own images, as these bad managers back fill roles that are being vacated, they will tend to hire more people like them–further exacerbating the overall organizational problem.

Create barriers between organizations:  Bad managers don’t limit their devastation to the sales organization, they create problems with the rest of the organization–often creating barriers to working together, driving conflict, or confusion.

Bad managers tend not to be personally accountable:  Bad managers tend blame others for failure.  As a result, tremendous time and energy is wasted in meaningless finger-pointing and internal battles, diverting attention and resources from the things that drive results.

Bad managers are devastating.  If you are an executive with a bad manager reporting to you–that’s a performance issue for you to address with the highest priority.  If you can’t coach and develop the manager to improve, you need to get rid of the manager.

If you work for a bad manager, find someone else.  Ideally in the same company, but find someone who will invest in you, helping you grow and thrive.   If not, go some place else.

Life is too short and there are too many opportunities to waste time and energy with bad managers.


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