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Jun 23 19

High Performers Spend Their Time Differently

by David Brock

Before reading this post, think about the following quote from Abraham Lincoln:

If I have 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first 4 hours sharpening the axe.

I’ve had the great privilege of coaching/advising one of the highest performance sales teams I’ve ever worked with. They are led by a great manager who has built a talented team.

One of the great things about working with a team like this is they execute in a very disciplined way. This team has been using our Sales Execution Framework (SEF) as the cornerstone to their sales execution strategy. They’ve seen stunning improvements in the performance of each person on the team, as measured by forecast accuracy, win rates, and increases in average win rate. Naturally quota and revenue performance are far above plan.

The manager is committed to continuous improvement, so we started looking at the differences between the highest performers and the other high performers. Since we had improved performance in so many areas, we were looking at the issue, “Can we compress the sales cycle?”

We discovered something amazing in comparing the highest performers to every one else.

First, their overall sales cycles were significantly lower than the sales cycles of everyone else.

We would expect this, but the most stunning data was this:

The highest performers spent twice as much time in the qualifying stage of the sales process than everyone else!

Initially, we thought that was strange, so we started talking to those people. It turns out the highest performers spent more time finding the right deals, building customer urgency and need to buy than their colleagues.

The second piece of the analysis was almost as stunning:

As we looked at the rest of the sales cycle, the highest performers spent about 30% of the time in the discovery and proposing/closing stages of the sales process, when compared to the others.

We were less surprised, we realized that when you have the right deals with customers that have a high sense of urgency, it’s much easier to move the customer through their buying process.

Those that had spent less time qualifying struggled more moving the customer through their buying process. Their overall sales cycle was much longer than their higher performing colleagues.

This data is even more important as I look at how too many sales people and organizations work. They spend as little time as possible in qualifying–rather disqualifying. They typically rush through the process, driven by wishful thinking like, “They met with me for an hour, they must be interested….” Then they struggle endlessly trying to move the deal through the buying process.

We see the results not only in much longer sales cycles, but much lower win rates, higher discounting, and lower average deal size. The latter 2 tend to be driven by thinking like, “I’ve invested so much time in this deal we have to discount it, I can’t lose….”

Ironically, we’ve seen another piece of interesting data, sales people tend to spend 2-3 times more time losing deals than they do winning deals.

High performers spend their time far differently than anyone else. They don’t rush the sale. They know the upfront work, finding the right customer, the right opportunity, and creating the highest sense of urgency in qualifying the customer made their subsequent job of winning the deal much easier and faster.

You can’t begin to understand and engineer your own performance or that of your team unless you have a disciplined structured manner to understand the key performance drivers, metrics aligned with that structure. For this team, the Sales Execution Framework (SEF) is the cornerstone for sales people in managing their pipelines and deal strategies. It’s the tool the manager uses to analyze performance and coach his team. I’m glad to send you a white paper on the Sales Execution Framework (SEF) if you’d like to learn more.

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Jun 20 19

“When Do You Need A Response?”

by David Brock

We live in a FOMO, interrupt driven world. We are distracted by the Adrenalin rush of being busy, forgetting that we aren’t accomplishing the things we had intended to accomplish.

One of the most devastating things to our goal attainment is our mistaken view of what it means to be “customer responsive.”

Recently, I was watching a sales team work. They were constantly busy, but at the end of each day, as we reviewed their progress against their goals, the progress didn’t align with the activity. As we discussed what happened, these comments started showing a pattern:

  • “A customer called asking a question, I stopped everything to research the answer and get back to them.”
  • ” I got an email from a potential customer looking for information, it took me about 45 minutes to put it together and get back to them.”
  • “Someone in marketing wanted to know…….”

The patterns, were pretty clear, everyone was instantly re-prioritizing their time around responding to interruptions. As a result, they were accomplishing nothing that was on their priority list.

“But Dave, we have to be responsive to our customers, if we aren’t……” is the response I get when I challenge people on this. But I think we confuse being “responsive,” with acting immediately.

What customers or anyone wants is an answer to their query, but that doesn’t mean they need it, or even want it immediately!

What would happen if we asked, “Would it be OK if I got this to you by……?” Or even, “When do you need this?”

The reality is the majority of inquiries we get don’t need an immediate response, yet we interrupt what we are doing to provide an immediate response. We don’t get extra credit points or create additional value by our speed of response–after all they are just looking for answers.

One of the things we don’t think of when we respond immediately is that we are actually interrupting the customer. They may be involved in something very different, but in our drive to be responsive, we are interrupting them, impacting their own ability to get things done.

Finally, often, we provide a higher quality response when we take more time to think about things.

The simple questions, “Would it be OK….” or “When do you….” give the customer the opportunity to make a choice. If they truly need it immediately, we can respond, but we never give the customer the opportunity to choose.

The overall impact is a tremendous productivity loss. We don’t get done what we had planned to get done, because of the interruptions. And we may not be providing as complete answers as we might, because of our rush to respond.

Going back to the sales team, we tried a few new things, the results were amazing:

  1. They didn’t pick up the phone when a call came in, but they were engaged in something else. They let the call roll into voicemail.
  2. Likewise, they didn’t look at incoming texts or emails.
  3. They kept the what they did during the time block focused on that time block. If it was prospecting, they prospected, if it was prepping a proposal, they worked on the proposal.
  4. Every couple of hours, they scheduled a small time block to look at those incoming queries. But their response was, “When do you need a response,” or”Can I get this to you by ……”
  5. They established a new “time block” for handling inquiries. Doing this, they were able to work through all the queries they had gotten, responding to them in a quality fashion. For some, it was an hour block every day, for others, it was 90 minutes every couple of days.

After a couple of weeks, the results were stunning. The team was getting more work done. When we looked at their weekly goals, they were accomplishing far more than they ever had.

Interestingly, the customers were happier. The responses they were getting were more thoughtful than previously, but more importantly, they weren’t interrupting what the customer was doing. The sales people started saying, “If I get back to you by Friday, would that be OK? Can we arrange a time do discuss on Friday?” The surprising result was customers could schedule this meeting into their day, and were more prepared and engaged in talking about the response.

For the next 2 weeks, try the same approach yourself. I suspect you will be stunned with how much it improves your productivity and your customer engagement.

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Jun 20 19

Sales Leadership Is About Human Leadership!

by David Brock

There are thousands of books and articles about selling and how to be a great sales leader–either individually as a sales person or organizationally.

Most of these focus on what we should be doing–we need to be customer focused, we need to prospect , we need to have full pipelines, we need to….

We spend, as a profession, billions in training, tools, programs, to help us improve as sales leaders.

We say selling is a people business, yet we focus on the mechanization of our interactions.

We miss, sales leadership is really about human leadership. Whether we are serving our customers or serving our people.

Sales leadership mandates us to:

  • Learn how to care.
  • Learn how to understand.
  • Learn how to serve.

I need to share the single most impactful podcast I’ve listened to in years. It’s a conversation between two people I am proud to call friends, and two of the very best thinkers/doers I know in our profession: Brent Adamson of Gartner, and Mitch Little, EVP Global Sales, Microchip.

I have 5 pages of notes from the best 50 minute conversation I have heard.

I hope you enjoy it and learn as much as I did!

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Jun 19 19

You’re Not Ready For That Call!

by David Brock

Somehow, it seems that a post on preparing for sales calls/meetings would be totally unnecessary. One would hope all sales professionals would have a plan for every call, if only to manage their own time very well.

When I talk to sales people about the importance of sales call/meeting planning, the responses tend to fall into two categories.

The first category is “the voice of experience.” These sales people look at me, roll their eyes, saying, “You don’t understand, I’ve been selling for year, I’ve made 1000s of calls.. I know how to get it done!”

The second category responds, “I’ve got a call plan (usually a script), this is what I want to tell them about our products/services?”

The first category is problematic because it’s typically a random walk through the customer buying process/sales process. These sales people rely on their ability to react and respond, rather than guiding the customer through their buying journey. Typically, the sales cycle for these people, or number of calls to close (not necessarily win), is very long, and their win rates are very low.

The second category is problematic, as well. These people have a plan, they know what they want to accomplish, but their goals/objectives are all about them. It’s always about them, their company, their product. They have an urgency to tell, perhaps disguised by cleverly worded discovery questions that elicit jut the response they need to get into pitch mode.

Regardless of how we plan or don’t plan, we are never prepared to answere a single question: “What’s in it for the customer?” Stated differently, “What does the customer get as a result of investing their time in the call and does Uthat create value for them?”

Until we can answer that question in terms meaningful to the customer, we aren’t ready do make that call or have the meeting.

In answering this question, we are forced to change our perspective and our preparation. We have to understand the customer well enough to know what’s important to them—not what we think should be important to them. We have to understand what they value, what they are trying to achieve, what stands in their way of achieving it, and whether they even care.

If we don’t know these things, if we can’t articulate how our call will help them in achieving those things, we aren’t ready for the call. As a result, we waste the customer’s time and ours.

We have to think about this for each call or meeting we have. If we can’t answer the question in a meaningful way, we aren’t ready to make the call and should reschedule it.

Do you know, “What’s in it for the customer to invest their time, now,” for every call/meeting you have?

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