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Oct 23 20

Obsessing On The Competition

by David Brock

The sales call started nicely. The sales person started asking me questions about my business, what I wanted to achieve, challenges we faced. He asked the alternatives we were considering.

Then things went south, really quickly. He asked me what I like about the competition. At first, I thought it a clever approach. He might then start to talk about his solution in the context of the things I highlighted. He could help me learn about his company’s approach to dealing with the same things. He might help me think about different ways to achieve the same goal. He might help me think about other things that I hadn’t mentioned.

Instead, he started to attack the competition. He started focusing on what was wrong about the competitor’s solutions. I thought to myself, “Gee, I thought the approaches were pretty interesting. Does this sales person think I’m stupid.”

I was uncomfortable with the sales person’s focus on the competitors. I tried to shift to learn more about how his solution could address the issues I sought to address. He talked about some of their capabilities, what it might mean to me. But he was defensive, he always talked about what they did in the context of the competition. Everything he did focused on his reaction to the competitor, not on the distinct things that made the solution he was presenting that addressed my priorities.

I began to wish, “Would he just ignore the competition, would he talk about how his solutions would achieve my goals?” But his obsession with the competition, kept me thinking more about the competitor. Where I wanted to focus on him and his products, his approach kept bringing the competitor back into play.

I’m sure he didn’t mean it, but his focus on the alternative I was considering actually got me more focused on understanding that alternative. I began to think, if he focuses more on the competition than his own solutions, perhaps he is telling me something.

Our customers will always consider alternatives–they should. It’s helpful to understand which competitors they are considering, what they like about them. This helps us understand our customers better, it helps us understand what they think is important, perhaps things they should be thinking about but aren’t.

But once we understand this, our strongest position is to leverage this, talking specifically how we can help the customer achieve their goals. We focus on the value we can create. We focus on how the customer might think about the issues differently. We can help the customer learn, help them consider different approaches. Our job is to help customers learn, help them consider new approaches and ideas. Our job is to demonstrate how we can help them achieve their goals more effectively than any other approach.

Obsessing about the competitors and what our customers think about them, may just reinforce the competitors’ positions, rather than thinking differently.

Oct 22 20

Removing Obstacles!

by David Brock

When you look at the job of the sales person or that of the manager, at it’s core, it’s really about removing obstacles.

For sales people, it’s about removing obstacles to our customers’ success. It’s helping them achieve their goals–business and personal. It’s helping them recognize there are things that may be blocking them from realizing their goals or dreams. It’s helping them navigate all the things that get in the way of their moving forward, to help them develop and execute a plan.

Managers and leaders, likewise, have the same responsibility to their customers–their people. Their job is to remove the obstacles that prevent their people from achieving their goals. Perhaps it’s providing them tools, systems, processes, training, programs, coaching. Perhaps it’s removing internal roadblocks, helping them get things done within the organization. Perhaps it’s the barriers we create for ourselves through lack of knowledge, poor execution discipline, or maybe being in the wrong role.

There are always things that stand in front of “our” abilities to achieve our goals. Removing them, blasting through them, flattening them, going around them—whatever it takes, it’s our job to help our customers and our people get to the other side of these obstacles.

Too often, we let these obstacles stand in the way, of our customers, of what we do to help our customers, within our organizations, and within ourselves. “We” let them stop us.

What’s interesting, when we look at these obstacles, the things that stop our customers and us, we don’t overcome them alone. We overcome them by working together! By aligning to overcome these shared obstacles. Working together to achieve our shared goals.

What are you doing to remove obstacles?

Oct 21 20

Talking About Virtual Selling

by David Brock

I’ve been asked to participate in a podcast on virtual selling. I’m looking forward to it, it’s an important topic. When I was originally asked, I replied, “What do you mean by virtual selling?”

I think that’s a fundamental question, one that I’m not sure I know the answer to.

But I think I know what “Virtual Selling,” isn’t.

To too many, it’s about using tools like Zoom, Teams, and other tools. To others, a major part is WFH. These may be components of Virtual Selling, but Virtual Selling is probably much more and much different.

Likewise, many think Virtual Selling is all about social channels and media.

As usual, when we talk about selling, and the focus is on technology and tools, we probably are missing the underlying principles and critical issues that impact our ability to engage customers in meaningful ways.

It’s hard to talk about selling, virtual or otherwise, without starting with the customer. I thought I’d search on “Virtual Buying.” As you might expect, virtually all of the articles, at least in the first 200 Google citations were about retail shopping. There were a lot about selling your house online. There was only one on Virtual Buying–it was an article I wrote a couple of months ago. Hmmmmmmm…….

It’s interesting, our customers aren’t talking about Virtual Buying. That’s the first clue that we may be missing the point when we discuss Virtual Selling.

Then try to discern what customers are talking about. As you might guess, there are a lot of things, but there is a huge amount of discussion about Digital Transformation. And when I drill down into this, most of the discussion is about new business models, rethinking their markets, products, services. Rethinking work within the organization. Rethinking collaboration within the organization and with partners. Of course a lot of it is about technology, but less about technology as a tool for efficiency, but more as an enabler to completely redefine their business and business model. To a large degree, it is about redefining work.

Our customers, our own companies are struggling with what this means, and what the new business models become. They are seeking to discover how they succeed–how they create revenue, how they innovate, how they create value with their customers, with their people, with their suppliers, and in their communities (which are now global).

I don’t know what Virtual Selling is, but I think it must be more like helping our customers with their digital transformations than conducting meetings on Zoom.

I think Virtual Selling might require more skills than learning how to unmute our microphones. I think skills around curiosity, innovation, creative thinking, experimentation, learning fast/failing fast, collaboration, problem solving, understanding complexity and how to help our customers make sense of the complexity they face.

I’m surprised with the “Aha” moments people are having around remote and “Zoom” selling. We’ve been selling remotely for decades. Our customers have been engaging us in indirect means for decades. So Virtual Selling, at least as the “popular” view would claim is neither new or innovative.

But Virtual Selling is our future–or perhaps learning how to engage our customers in thinking about and implementing their Digital Transformations is our future. And some of that may just be F2F or over the phone.

Oct 21 20

I Suck In Prospecting!

by David Brock

I’m embarrassed to admit this. I have some real prospecting problems. It’s embarrassing, I write about prospecting a lot, I speak, I coach people, we run prospecting workshops. But there’s a part of prospecting, I’m embarrassed to say, that I’m really horrible at.

I’m a terrible prospect.

It’s embarrassing. I’m supposed to be pretty good at this stuff, but I’ve discovered I’m probably one of the worst prospects around. I try to live up to my responsibilities as a prospect, but too consistently fail miserably.

Let me confess my inadequacies

  1. I ignore way too many emails. I realize sales people have gone through so much work. They have bought a list, somehow my name and email ends up on the list. That list could be 1000’s of others. And the poor sales person takes the time to have their email system send the 1000’s of us the exact same email. And I don’t take the time to respond. It doesn’t matter that it’s totally irrelevant to me. I feel bad, they’ve put in all the work to hit the “send” key on their emailing system. But I hope a few of the thousands of people they have sent the email to respond. After all, I feel so bad about these sales people that have tried so hard to connect.
  2. Those same sales people take a lot of time following up that email. They forward the original email to me, asking, “Did you get my email?” By that time, I’m too embarrassed. I did get it, I was just too lazy and inconsiderate to respond. I dig the hole deeper, hide my shame, hoping they notice I don’t respond.
  3. Inevitably, I’m caught. They send me another email. “Did you get the email I sent last week asking you if you got the email I sent you the previous week?” By this point, my irresponsibility and failure as a prospect comes crashing in on me. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. They’ve caught me. They may have even read some of my blogs, where I provide “prospecting” advice. I feel I’m such a phony, I want to crawl under my desk.
  4. Sometimes, though, I live up to my responsibility as a prospect. I respond to the email. Inevitably, I get that part wrong, as well. Selfishly, I had thought being a prospect made things about me. So when I respond, I ask about things that concern me. I am ashamed at being so selfish–but usually the sales person is good in overlooking my selfishness. They ignore the things I am interested in, suggesting we schedule a demo so they can tell me all about what their product does. I realize, if I let them do this, later on I can figure out how it solves my problems. I am so grateful to those sales people that let my self interests about my business pass. I’m grateful they ignore my bad buying behavior and just pitch their product. Kindly, they ignore this behavior and let me save face.
  5. I am learning that I a make another terrible mistake as a prospect. I don’t follow instructions. My usual response is to ask a few questions about how a product might solve my problems. I never get a response. Then I realize it was a bot that sent me the original email. I’m humbled to learn that bots can’t respond to questions, and I’m ashamed to have a sales person invest time in responding. I worry about my bad buying behavior then realize, “Dave, you are such an idiot!!!! The email said you have to schedule a meeting on Calendy!” Sheepishly, I realize I am wasting the sales person’s time, time that they are using Calendy to manage so efficiently. I go to Calendy, hoping they haven’t noticed that I haven’t followed their instruction. I see at Calendy, they have allocated 15 minute blocks of time that are convenient for them to talk. I worry that I might screw things up for them. What if I asked a couple of questions that caused the meeting to take 16 or 17 minutes? I’d totally screw up their calendar. I select a time, writing a note to myself, “Don’t ask too many questions, you only have 15 minutes. Make sure not to waste the sales person’s time.” I select a time, then I’m asked for a reason for the conversation. I worry, “How do I justify their investing 15 minutes in their time to sell something to me?” I try to display some humility in my response, “Can I please take 15 minutes of your time so you can sell something to me?” I press the enter key, hoping the sales person would find that reason good enough to take the time to sell me something.

I have to confess, fulfilling my responsibilities as a good prospect is really stressful. I’m starting to lose sleep. I worry what sales people might think of me—or even what the bots think of me. After all they are investing all this time in sending email after email; in leaving phone message after phone message. I’m feeling like I’m such a failure, but somehow, I just don’t get things right.

I worry that I will just never be a good prospect. I suppose I’m too selfish and self centered, foolishly thinking of my needs rather than the sales people who work so hard in deluging me with emails.

At this point, I’m just worried, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I’m throwing up my hands and giving up. I just will never be able to live up to my responsibilities as a prospect.

I’m sorry to those 100’s of sales people that send thousands of emails to me. I just can’t live up to my responsibilities, and I feel so guilty about wasting your time. Sadly, I have to admit I am weak, I’m a failure at this part of prospecting.

I don’t want you to waste your time, I will just fail you. Perhaps the best thing is for you just to ignore me. Stop investing your valuable time in trying to engage me, I will always fail you.

I’m sorry!