Skip to content
Feb 16 18

Who Are We Designing Our Marketing/Sales Strategies To Serve?

by David Brock

Every day, we are pummeled with experts talking about how to make sales people more efficient.  The most fashionable ideas seem to be around extreme specialization/mechanization of selling.

These pundits often cite applying manufacturing principles to designing our sales engagement strategies.  Some cite the grandfather of lean/agile manufacturing principles, the Toyota Production System (TPS).

At the same time we are pummeled with increasingly specialized tools to help free up time to sell.  Sales and marketing stacks are growing, I’ve seen one Fortune 50 company “bragging” about their sales stack of 19 tools.

All these things are supposed to make us better, more productive, more effective, more efficient.

Yet year after year, the data shows the exact opposite is happening.  The percent of sales people making goal is less than 50%, the percent of organizations making plan is declining.  Virtually every data point we see, the results we are getting from sales and marketing is not getting better.

We see customers becoming increasingly disengaged.  Our ability to reach them, engage them and help them achieve their goals is becoming increasingly difficult.  Customers provide feedback:

  • Sales people don’t understand me and my business.
  • Sales people don’t talk about the things most important to me.
  • Sales people don’t understand their products and solutions and how they will help me.
  • Sales people just want to pitch their products, leaving it up to me to figure out how to make them work for us.
  • Sales people waste my time.

We see endless data about customers preferring to engage sales people later and later in the buying process, and, if at all possible, avoiding them, buying in online markets.

At the same time, we see data telling us that customers are struggling.  As much as 60% of their buying decisions end in no decision made.  Others are struggling, because they haven’t recognized a need to change or realize there may be a need to buy.

So we have an interesting paradox.  The need/demand from customers is increasing.  The performance of sales organizations in decreasing.

It seems the chasm between what customers need and what our sales and marketing initiatives do is widening, where one would think it would be narrowing.

Today, the pundits and sales/marketing automation vendors tend to try to solve the problem by increasing volume/velocity.  But the results from those initiatives aren’t producing what we need.  Instead of analyzing why these initiatives fail, it is just far easier to pump up the volume and velocity.

Where in the past, 100 out of 1000, may have opened our emails, today only 10 are.  So the immediate response is to send out 10,000 emails.  And when that’s insufficient, we just crank up the volume/frequency.  The incremental cost of our web/email based communications is virtually zero.  Rather than diagnosing why customers aren’t responding and how to fix it, we just do more of what’s not working.

Back to the TPS pundits.  The problem is, none of them understand TPS and its basic principles.  They think it’s about mechanization, specialization and efficiency.

Recently, I’ve been following a number of interesting and very earnest conversations about increasing the specialization, breaking up the sales process into smaller more specialized roles.  Moving from SDR, AE, Account Managers to more specialized versions of each role and people supporting those people.  For example, to minimize the time our people spend on research, why don’t we put people/resources to do the research in place?

In all those conversations, there is one thing missing–the customer.  All the conversations focus on our own internal processes, our own internal productivity, how we become more efficient.

The customer and their experience with us is never mentioned.  They become widgets we move through the process, the victims of our internal attempts to be more efficient and productive.

And all of this is driven under the mantra of making revenue more predictable.

I hope by now you are appreciating the terrible irony of this.

If we are trying to make the revenue more predictable in all these approaches to improving sales and marketing, how come our results in terms of people making goal, companies making plan, are declining?

We mouth the words, “customer experience,” yet we design our organizations and processes without mentioning the word customer.  Our focus in on what makes us more efficient (note we aren’t talking about effectiveness) and not on what causes the customer to want to engage us.

Pundits of this approach always use the concepts of TPS to rationalize what they do–but they miss the fundamental underlying principle of TPS–It is all about the customer!  We always start our design process with the customer and the value we must create to serve the customer, designing our processes backwards from that.  (By the way, if you want to understand how we can and can’t apply TPS to sales and marketing, ask me for my free eBook on the topic.)

Many of our initiatives are designed to free up time for our sales people.  But what are we freeing up their time to do?  Presumably it’s to get more deeply engaged with customers, but increasingly they are spending less and less time with customers.  And they aren’t able to engage customers the way they want to be engaged.

This is simply madness!

Somehow we have to stop the insanity and bad thinking that is dominating too much of what we do in sales and marketing.

We have to go back to fundamentals and basic principles.  We have to have great clarity about who our customers are, how we create differentiated value, how we create great customer buying experiences.

Once we have those fundamentals in place, lean and agile methods can be applied in very powerful ways.  Automation and tools can be applied in very powerful ways.  We can apply principles of design thinking in very powerful ways.

But it always, always, always starts with the customer!

Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the customer in our approaches.  Unfortunately, we seem to be ignoring the data that tells us this.

There are a few organizations and leaders who have gotten this.  Their organizations constantly outperform others.  Their organizations are both effective and efficient, but most importantly intimate with their customers.

Hit the pause button on all your efforts.  Go back to fundamentals and start rethinking what you do.


Be Sociable, Share!
Feb 9 18

To Challenge Or Not To Challenge

by David Brock

Every once in a while, someone asks me, “When is it right to challenge?”  At first the question bothered me, my knee jerk reaction was, “We should be challenging our customers 100% of the time.”

Then I realized may have been answering a question that is different than what the person is asking.

Even though Challenger was published years ago, there remains a lot of misunderstanding around the concept Challenging.  Many tend to think of it as a behavioral style–perhaps slightly aggressive, perhaps confrontive.  When you look Challenger up in the dictionary, there are phrases, “someone who disputes something, or places themselves in opposition to something.”  Others refer to “engaging in a contest,” with its implicit win/lose, or connotations of someone doing something right or wrong.

Based on those interpretations of Challenge, it’s easy to see we may want to be very careful about Challenging, even whether we want to do it at all.

But, I’ve always tended to think of Challenging in a different context.  I’ve always viewed it in the context of getting people to think differently, getting them to imagine new possibilities.  (I don’t think that’s inconsistent with the way Matt, Brent, and Nick have thought, either).  It is less a behavioral style and more a set of conversations engaging the customer in learning new things and considering alternatives.  It needn’t be bold insights, it could be simple questions, “Have you ever considered…..,”  “What if…..”

As a result of that mindset, I tend to think our job as sales people is to always be challenging.

Selling has always been about change.  Whether it’s changing the way you are doing a certain thing, changing from a current vendor or solution, getting the customer to think or alternative solutions to their problem.

People tend to be blind to, or resist change.  They may not recognize there are better ways, they may not realize they are missing opportunities.  They may just be too busy, surviving the day to day.  As a result, we have to challenge them, we have get them to consider changing, we have get them to realize the pain/risk of not changing is far greater than the change itself.

Many may be down their buying journey, self educating themselves on their digital journey.  They may not be asking themselves the right questions or looking at the right issues.  They may be constrained by their past experience.  If we are to get them to change, we have to challenge their thinking, we have to get them to consider alternative approaches.

To me, challenging our customers is an inherent part of every sales effort.

If our customers don’t need this challenge, if they have challenged themselves, determined a course of action and are taking it, then all we become is order takers.  Order taking is not selling.


Be Sociable, Share!
Feb 8 18

Are You Designing For Performance?

by David Brock

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been writing articles related to designing our organizations for performance.  Whether it’s talent management,rethinking the bell curve, metrics and shifting the numbers in our favor, or rethinking the pareto principle–we can and are obligated to design our organizations for performance.

It’s a simple concept, but too often, it seems we design for mediocrity.  Perhaps not consciously–I don’t think anyone purposefully designs for mediocrity, but we achieve it through lack of attention, acceptance, poor strategy, bad execution, lack of discipline, and making excuses.

We tend to forget, we are in control of our own personal performance, that of our teams, and that of our organization.  We can design everything we do for performance and not accept mediocrity as part of our culture.

We see organizations that are designed for performance every day.  This past weekend, we witnessed (at least in the US) the Superbowl with two great teams (the Eagles and Patriots).  As you look at the journeys of each of the organizations, we see each was built for performance, they did not accept mediocrity in any of the roles on the team, coaching and management staffs.  In the coming weeks, the world will watch the Winter Olympics, elite athletes from around the world.  Teams that are designed for top performance.

We love the story of “Moneyball,” a baseball team designed for performance.  We love stories and speakers from “Special Forces,” talking about teams designed for performance.  In business we see organizations that are consistent top performers.  As we study them, we see what they do is conscious and purposeful.  They design for performance and do not accept mediocrity or poor performance.

I get frustrated reading the data about sales management tenure dropping to 19 months.  Sales people meeting/exceeding quota at less than 50%.  Recently I saw a “market study” that define outstanding performance as “60% of people, or more, achieving quota.”

We get the results we design for and lead to!  Unfortunately, too many seem to have fatalistic or closed mindsets, and are unconsciously designing for mediocrity.

Designing for performance is not that difficult–and it is a whole lot more fun–than designing for mediocrity.

It starts with each of us, caring about our own personal performance, constantly learning, constantly improving.

It moves on to our people, caring about them and their performance, willingness and ability to take responsibility for it, willingness and drive to learn/improve.

We consciously build an organizational culture focused on performance, learning, improvement, and collaboration.

We focus on talent management, not settling for what we get, but focused on understanding the behaviors/attitudes/skills/competencies/experiences critical to achieve the levels of performance we want.  Then we recruit to those profiles relentlessly, refusing to compromise, just to fill a vacant position.

We constantly develop our people, through training and coaching.  We leverage everything we can-systems, processes, tools, programs.

We protect our people, enabling them to perform.  We constantly look to simplifying processes and workflows.  We remove obstacles and barriers that inhibit their ability to perform.  We recognize great performance and constantly strive to develop and improve the performance of every one.

We are constantly involved with our people–not micromanaging, but working with them, learning, helping them develop and improve.

We celebrate our wins, recognizing it takes a team to win.  We learn from our failures, trying to understand them, take corrective action and improve.  We don’t seek to assign blame, but take responsibility to improve.

We are pragmatists and realists.  We don’t look for silver bullets, magical cures, or succumb to wishful thinking or excuses.  We recognize we are in control of our performance, we are responsible and accountable for the results we produce.  We know success comes from doing the work, and not taking short cuts.  We don’t settle, we don’t compromise our standards–ever.  We leverage everything we can, but realize it’s us that creates the success, not the tools or technology.

Ironically, it high performance and mediocrity take the same amount of time.

Using the football analogy, a game is four 15 minute quarters.  Great teams and mediocre teams have to play 60 minutes.  A baseball game is 9 innings, good teams and bad teams have to play 9 innings,  Soccer has two 45 minute haves.  Cricket is……  well it’s cricket 😉

We will all work the same 40-50-60 hours a week.  Mediocre teams will spend the same amount of time at work as high performing teams.  Perhaps the only difference is time seems to fly with high performing teams and time drags in low performing teams.

We get the performance we design for and accept.

Why would anyone ever want to design for mediocrity?


Be Sociable, Share!
Feb 6 18

The Seduction Of The Pareto Principle

by David Brock

All of us know, often talk about the Pareto Principle.  It’s the 80/20 “rule.” an observation we apply to lots of different things.  For example, 20% of our sales people produce 80% of the results.  Much of the “data” suggests this is conservative, that far few sales people produce a larger percentage of the results.

Often, though, I think we misunderstand this.  We tend to treat the Pareto Principle as a law of nature of physics, thinking it is what it is.  We feel happy, when we beat it by a little, maybe 30% of our people producing 80% of the results.

But we need to approach this differently (whether it’s 80/20 or some other proportion).  We need to carefully examine that 20%.  What is it about them, what are they doing that enable them to deliver the results?

  • Is it something about their skills, competencies, experiences, behaviors, attitudes?
  • Is it something about how they sell or who they sell to?
  • Is it something about how they engage, how they create value, how they differentiate themselves?

Rather than accepting 80/20 as a foregone conclusion, we need to look understand what these top performers are doing and who they are.

Once we understand this, then we have to reproduce it in the remaining 80%.

  • Are we recruiting people that have the same skills, competencies, experiences, behaviors, and attitudes as the “20?”
  • Are we the 80 selling to the same types of customers in ways similar to the 20?
  • Are they engaging, creating value, differentiating themselves in ways similar to the 20?

The more we can replicate what the top performers are doing, the more we can get the rest of our team to perform at the level of the top performers, the more we will drive success and growth.

See the magic is, not shifting the denominator of the 80/20 rule, it’s shifting the numerator!  Do the math.  If 20% of our people are producing 80% of our revenue, and we can get the remaining 80% to be as successful as the 20%, we actually can drive a 400% revenue increase!

That’s the real magic of not accepting your version of the pareto principle.

(If you need help with that math, reach out, I’ll give you the secret decoder ring.  It’s not magic, and too often we miss this real opportunity).


Be Sociable, Share!