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Dec 8 22

Emotions Are A Core Driver For B2B Buyers, What About Sellers?

by David Brock

We have suspected, for years, that B2B buyers make purchase decisions based on how they feel, rationalizing the decision with data supporting those decisions. Scott Gillum, has just published a fascinating piece of research that goes deeper, asking, “What creates these feelings/emotions, how do we address that?” It’s an important read, ‘Emotions’ don’t drive B2B purchase decisions, this does.

But there is a different way to think about this article. It’s about human behavior, what drives engagement and what drives performance. Buyers don’t adapt certain behaviors just for B2B purchase decisions, this is the way they make decisions and what drives their interaction with their colleagues, in their jobs, and with others.

Which should cause leaders to think about, “what drives the behaviors and performance of our own people?” If what we are seeing from B2B buyers is simply human response and behavior, then the same observations apply to everyone in our organizations. The same applies to what drives the behaviors and performance of our sellers.

Yet, increasingly, we are data driven in how we “coach” and drive the performance of our people. Our conversations focus “just on the facts,” too often ignoring the things underlying performance. Technology gives us more and more data, provides deeper analysis on performance. We leverage technology solutions to coach our people, “The data says you should do more of this and less of that….”

But one wonders if that is actually very helpful. For years, we’ve seen research reporting declining employee engagement (not just sellers). We see higher levels of attrition, people leaving organizations and not just for better comp. We see continued declines in performance, decreasing percentages of people achieving quota, lower win rates.

The data seems to be telling us, that perhaps we may be missing something about what drives the performance of our own people.

We seem to be missing the humanity around how people work, what drives them, what motivates them, what keeps them engaged, how they feel about the work they do, who they work with, and the organizations they choose to be part of.

Scott’s article dives into the behaviors of buyers and should provoke us to think abut what it means for sellers and others in our own organizations. He shows that research had focused on how purchasers feel, but more current research dives into what drives those feelings.

Researchers from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada have discovered why people purchase the latest technology. The fascinating new study reveals that the real motivator behind the decision is actually driven by the desire for personal growth and competency.

I suspect similar factors impact the behavior of our people. If we go beyond the data and what they should do, instead start understanding how they feel and what drives those feelings, perhaps we can more effectively connect with our people, build organizations and leadership practices that effectively engage people and enable them to drive higher levels of performance.

We spend lots of time and money trying to understand our customers. As leaders, we should think, our people are our customers–and they are no different than our end customers.

Dec 7 22

Moving Beyond Insight…..

by David Brock

We know insight is critical in engaging our customers, helping them think about their businesses differently. Our ability to discuss relevant insights can be very powerful in inciting customers to think differently, helping them commit to and manage change, helping them in their buying process.

In complex B2B change initiatives, the issues and challenges are likely to be relatively new to our customers. They probably haven’t considered these types of changes before. If they have, it may have been years ago, and the world has changed. Any experience they have, may be very limited–perhaps experiences in other organizations, perhaps things they have learned at conferences, or through casual web searches or articles. But unless it’s something they have dealt with very recently, it’s unlikely they have enough knowledge to develop a deep understanding of the issues, challenges, risks, potential returns, of how to make and implement a decision.

The seller plays an important role in helping the customer. Afterall, we and our customers are working with customers facing similar issues every day. We’ve seen hundreds to thousands of organizations confronting the same issues–some successfully, some unsuccessfully. We have deep knowledge and experience, not only in how our solutions fit, but in the business, organizational, risk and change management struggles companies have. We have the ability to provide insights, helping customers learn and manage their own initiatives more effectively. We can help the customer navigate their process, based on our experience with other organizations.

We see top performing sellers engaging customers with deep insight, and leveraging that creating value with the customer in effectively and efficiently managing that change.

In that process, our relationship with customers change. While the terms seem trite, we move from the vendor role, to that of a trusted partner. It’s out ability to work collaboratively, leveraging our experience and understanding to help the customer both in making a change decision and buying, through the successful implementation of that decision.

The more we do this with customers, the deeper those relationships become. Often, we move beyond that trusted partner role. We actually have the opportunity to move into an entirely new space. We become an innovation collaborator.

Our value creation moves from leveraging our experiences with other companies, industries, and markets, to creating new ways of doing things or doing new things.

Our customers come to us, not because of our insights and knowledge from other areas, but because of the deep relationship in solving problems. They value our understanding of them and similar businesses, our track record of helping them change, learn and grow.

They engage us in areas where they and we may not know the answers, but collaboratively we can figure them out. The goal is to leverage the collective abilities, knowledge and experiences of each organization to address areas neither has addressed–at least completely before.

As we look at the rate of change and disruption every organization faces, we find ourselves trying to figure out what to do next, but that next is something that may not have been done before. While it may not be new to the world, or may not be profound like solving for world peace. It is new to our customers, us, our markets, and our customers customers.

It is in this space, where we and our customers develop new understanding, new approaches, new applications of our solutions and, yes, new insights……

Not all customers will engage in these collaborative discoveries, typically, it’s the leaders in an industry or market. Not all of us will want to engage in these collaborative discoveries, it requires new skills and capabilities; as well as the confidence in doing something where we may not have all the answers, but where we know we can, with the customers, discover the answers.

But getting access to these opportunities are important. They become platforms for both the customer and us to learn, develop new thinking and approaches and grow.

It’s from these experiences that we develop new solutions and new insights—which we take to other companies as they, too, look to learn and grow.

Collaborative innovation is where we go, when we have mastered the ability to leverage insights meaningful to our customers. It’s the space where we develop new insights and find new opportunities, and create unique value.

What are you doing to find and earn the right to work with small number of customers in collaborative innovation? These are the fuel to your future growth.

Afterword: In the coming months you will find me writing very frequently on how organizations can help their customers innovate. We’ve been working with many clients, leveraging collaborative innovation to drive giant steps in performance. The results our clients are starting to see are profound, we will be sharing stories of these in the coming weeks/months. In the interim, you might be interested in this article on the Innovation Gray Space.

Collaborative innovation is the new frontier for creating value with our customers. There are so many very rich examples we can learn from, adapt, and drive far higher levels of success. Hope you enjoy the ar

Dec 6 22

On Sequences And “Touches”

by David Brock

The research tells us we need to be persistent in our outreaches to prospects and clients. To reach and engage them, we have to leverage multiple channels of engagement. Phone, email, social, texts, and other channels must be leveraged simultaneously to provoke a prospect–even a customer to respond.

Data shows we often need to reach out over 15 times to catch the attention of prospects. Years ago, it used to be 7-10 outreaches, now it’s over 15, who knows where it will be next year.

We’ve even created the “sequences” to provoke prospect engagement. The concept is powerful, building a story over time to engage the prospect. Yet too often, the sequence we see implemented is, “Did you get my last message and the previous message and the previous message……..

It’s interesting to see the outreaches and sequences that fill my inbox and my mobile (voicemails/texts).

One organization seems to think I need to hear everything that is going on with them. Every press release, every webinar, every new piece of content. In fairness, I signed up for a webinar about 5 years ago. In the intervening time, they’ve found it necessary to keep me informed 2532 times (that’s just the email messages). Since October 19, they’ve reached out 100 times on all sorts of topics–few of which have any interest to me.

Another seller, is going through his sequences. In the past 20 business days, he has found it necessary to reach out 28 times. He has a sequence of 5 stories that he keeps recycling. But our company is clearly not in the ICP of the organization. It’s a software tool that applies to a certain industry segment and function–but not ours. Yet he persists. (I was glad he took a break over Thanksgiving, I thought it good that he decided to spend time with his family, rather than doing more email sequences.)

Another has taken an interest in texting me on a daily basis. Each time coming from a different number. Each time telling me how important his software tool is. Today, he took an interesting tact. “Tell me to stop, or I’ll double the volume of texts I send you….” What a fascinating approach to creating interest!

And then there are the newsletters. It’s amazing the number of companies that feel they have “breaking news,” or something they need to tell me about–every day! Sometimes, it seems they have more “news” than the stories I get from Axios and the New York Times every day.

Then there are the companies that drive me away from engaging–when I have a potential interest. Usually, my downloads of content are of market research, general trends and data around selling and marketing. I’ve stopped downloading these, as much as I may be interested in the research/insight because of the onslaught of emails and voicemails thanking me for my interest in their products.

One famous one, keeps reaching out, on those occasions, wanting to talk to me about becoming a customer, even though we’ve been a customer for over 10 years.

You might say, “Dave, you are exaggerating. Surely these must be spammers or Nigerian princes. They can’t be legitimate companies.” Sadly, they are all legit companies. Mostly familiar names in sales/marketing technologies, telecom, and other technologies. In aggregate, I get 1000’s of outreaches every year, none of which I’ve expressed an interest in, but somehow my email was harvested.

We have met the enemy……..

Dec 6 22

And We Call This Progress?

by David Brock

This time of year, sometimes we look back to see what’s happened how things have changed and the progress we’ve made. Typically, we look at attainment of annual goals. Questions like, “Will we hit our numbers? Could we have done more or what cause us to miss? Have we built a stronger team, are we growing their ability to perform? What challenges did we face, how did we address them? Are we maximizing performance and productivity in the organization?

These help us understand what has happened and how we responded. It also helps us think about what we want to achieve in the coming year.

A few colleagues and I sat down, looking at research data of overall sales performance for a number of years. Some of the data went back as far as 2015. There were some interesting, though sadly, not startling trends.

In general, organizational performance against their goals was good. We saw 85-90% of organizations achieving their overall revenue goals. We didn’t have data on YoY revenue growth, but anecdotally since 2015, we’ve seen good growth, particularly in the technology sectors. Some sectors were very positively impacted by the pandemic. Some sectors could have achieved more growth, but had supply chain constraints.

In the past 18-20 months we’ve seen organizations facing increasing challenges in achieving overall revenue goals–none of this is surprising in light of the news we read on the global economy, inflation, and recession. At the same time, news is a little mixed, with many sectors experiencing good growth.

While overall organizational performance seems to be more positive, we saw other disturbing trends.

We looked at reports from prior to 2015, we saw reports like 60%+ of salespeople meeting quota. We saw average tenures in sales roles of 36-42 months.

Today, we see reports of 42-45% of sellers meeting quota. Reports of average tenure are down to 11-15 months. Attracting and retaining talent has become a critical problem, with comp skyrocketing to compete for this talent (which will hang around for shorter and shorter periods).

We’ve seen huge increases in tech stacks and spending on sales/marketing technologies. In the 2015 time frame I recall writing about “huge tech stacks” of around 7-9 tools. Today, it’s not unusual to see tech stacks exceeding 19 tools. Spending on technology has skyrocketed.

At the same time, the same old issues keep coming up. Something as fundamental as CRM compliance shows very low numbers, with little to no improvement in the past 10 years or so. Anecdotally, as I dive into client CRM systems, I find very poor utilization. And the number of Excel spreadsheets that managers use to monitor performance doesn’t seem to have declined.

We see many other issues of decline. “Acceptable” win rates are now less than 20%—“we’ll make it up in volume….” Average deal values declining. Increasing demands for volume/velocity in activity levels, but simultaneously time available for selling is decreasing–sometimes less than 20%.

Things are changing on the customer side, as well. No Decision Made has gone from the mid 40s to over 60%. Buying cycles have gotten longer. Customer preference on “rep-free” buying experiences have gone from the low 40s to over 60%–with some research showing 72% preferring rep-free experiences. And we see data on increasing customer disappointment in the buying decisions they have made.

We’ve seen customer retention and loyalty becoming increasingly challenging.

So we have some mixed messages/experiences. Overall, we see organizations meeting and exceeding revenue and growth goals. But we see sharp declines in productivity, performance, effectiveness, and efficiency.

And this is progress?

But there is a bright side. If we are seeing revenue and overall organizational performance improving, despite plummeting selling performance. One could conclude, organizationally we are underperforming our potential. If we are still meeting our revenue/growth goals in the face of declining selling effectiveness and efficiency, imagine what we could do if we started improving effectiveness and efficiency?!?

Or, in the least, if we didn’t dramatically increase overall revenue/growth, we could improve EBITDA.

As we look at the potential of a recession, or at least some slowing. It’s critical that we do everything we can to maximize the performance of each individual in our selling organizations. We know what do do and how to do it–we just don’t.

Perhaps it’s time to change…..