When I read my feeds or listen to a lot of “experts,” the focus is always on hitting our quotas, maxing our commissions, achieving our goals. Listening to sales executives, the focus is, constantly, making your numbers.
And then there are the consequences of not doing so. Our jobs are at stake, even our companies are threatened. One imagines a sword of Damocles hanging over seller’s heads with the constant threat of making quota.
Then you have people like me saying, “You have to be helpful to your customers, you have to create value in their buying process!”
The reaction, when I start talking about being helpful and creating value is an understandable, “Dave, you don’t understand, I have to make my quota!”
Somehow, we have created a distortion field, believing that achieving quota and helping customers are independent. The implicit thinking is, we don’t have the time to help, we are chasing after our number. And the belief is that we can make our goals without being helpful to our customers.
The reality is, one is dependent on the other. If we aren’t helpful to our customers, if we aren’t creating value, we will not achieve our goals.
Intellectually, everyone will say, “Yeah Dave, I get it, we’ve got to create value, yadda yadda…… But I’ve got to make my numbers!”
And this thinking drives frenzies of activities with the view that the more people sellers talk to, the more we can pitch, the more deals we can close.
Then there is, also, a certain “macho” mindset. The concept of being helpful, creating value, caring about our customers somehow seems too soft. There’s this mindset, epitomized by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Coffee is for closers!”
With this mindset, customers become obstacles standing in the way of hitting quota. We adopt strategies to get around them, past them, or manipulate them.
And we continue these behaviors despite overwhelming data demonstrating this doesn’t work: Win rates plummet, more customers are failing to complete their buying process, customers don’t want to see sellers, and percent of sellers making quota has continued to decline year after year (with the majority of sellers failing to achieve the goals).
Our success is absolutely dependent on our customers’ success. If we aren’t helping our customers succeed, then we aren’t helping ourselves in achieving our goals! Without the first, we never achieve the second.
“Yeah, yeah Dave, but I still have to make my numbers!!!! All this ‘being helpful’ stuff isn’t being helpful!”
How do we break out of this? How do we help our customers and make our numbers? Some thoughts:
- We need to be very clear on the problems we solve and who has those problems. We don’t do everything for everyone, we have to focus on those customers we can help. We don’t waste our time on customers who don’t have the problems we can solve.
- Who has those problems now? While everyone in our ICP may, at some point, face the issues, not all face them now. Not all want to do something now. We have to focus on those customers who want to do something about the problems now!
(1) and (2) require vicious focus. Wishful thinking distracts us, wastes time, and adversely impact our ability to achieve our goals. Yet, when I ask people to characterize their ICP, most do it only in abstraction. They can’t describe who fits, who doesn’t. Without this focus, it is impossible to achieve our goals. And in tough times, it becomes critical to narrow our focus even further (which is completely the opposite of what most sellers do.)
- We have to understand these problems and what they mean to the customer—deeply. Even though we solve the problems–the solution is meaningless until the customer recognizes they have that problem and understand what it means. How does it impact them? Who does it impact? What does it mean in terms of the customer accomplishing their goals? What happens if they do nothing? What happens if they solve it and fail? What are the critical issues that impact their ability to solve the problem? And on and on…. If we don’t understand the problems, as the customer experiences them, we will never be able to show them how we solve those problems.
- We have to understand the customer buying process–what do they need to be doing, who needs to be involved, how do they manage and maintain consensus? What derails them, what might cause them to abandon the effort to change? What competing initiatives might distract them? What support do they need from the organization and from management to make the change initiative? How long does it take them to go through the process and make a decision in which they have confidence?
Customers have no interest in talking about our solution, until they have defined what they want to change and everything involved in that change. Until they do this and have confidence in their change initiative, they aren’t interested in our solutions or in making a decision. Stated differently, their inability to do this stands in the way of our attaining our goals. If we don’t help them answer these issues, develop and execute their plan, we won’t hit our goals. (3) and (4) require us to focus on helping the customers through these issues. Doing this effectively helps develop their confidence and helps them move effectively through their process.
- At the risk of repeating myself (see 4), customers tend to get overwhelmed in their buying process, even if they have committed to a change. They don’t do this every day, their “day jobs” distract them. They tend to wander, start/stop, change directions, shift priorities. They struggle, and without our help, the majority will give up. For those that complete the process, a high number experience regret.
We fail to achieve our goals, unless our customers are successful with their buying process. If they stop out of frustration or losing interest, we fail. It’s critical to help them through this process.
“Yeah Dave, we get this, but it’s too much work!”
Doing all these things well, helping the customer achieve their goals improves our ability to achieve our goals. We’ve found when teams do this, win rates skyrocket, no decision made drops significantly, and sales cycles are reduced.
We fill our days with all sorts of activity–most of which fails to produce results, so we are working hard. It seems insane not to do the things that produce results–and that’s helping the customer.
I’ll stop here. there’s more to go through, particularly in understanding pipeline dynamics and creating health pipelines. These impact our ability to achieve our numbers and our quarterly performance. But I’ll address that later.
Being helpful to customers, creating value with them is a pre-condition to our ability to achieve our goals. There’s nothing wrong about being goal focused, but we have to do the things that produce results.