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Lean Sales And Marketing–“Every Activity Has A Context”

by David Brock on March 5th, 2013

I’m at the Forrester Sales Enablement Conference.  It’s fascinating, I’ll have a lot more to write over the coming weeks.  Last night, however, I was at dinner with a sales person.  We had a fascinating conversation — at least I thought so.  As a side note, I always start the conversation with, “How are things going;what do things look like in your accounts, territory; will you make your number?” Somehow, these conversations tend to become mini deal and account reviews.

But the conversation was really fascinating.  He had a number of very large accounts and we were talking about how he developed and executed his account plans.  He said something that really struck me and has been turning over in my mind all night, “Every activity I do in my account has to have a context.”

“I’ve never heard someone say that before, tell me what you mean,” I responded.

As he explained himself, he said he spent a lot of time doing account planning.  His process was great, rather than a “how do I sell more stuff,” approach, he started his account planning with “What are they trying to do?  What are the biggest issues they face in the problem areas that I can address?  What opportunities are they missing?…….”  He then went on to develop plans, activities, and things that he needed to learn from his customers, as well as insights he wanted to provide to help them change.

As a result, everything he did with the customer had a context or purposefulness.  More importantly, all of this was traced back to value he could create for the customers, how much he could sell.  Furthermore, as new things came up, he evaluated every activity he was going to do against the plans and goals he had set for his accounts.  If the activities did not contribute directly to those goals, then he didn’t do them.

The approach is awesome!  The purposefulness and intensity of focus was something I don’t see often.  The “context,” was always customer focused–see he had broken the code,  He knew that  a focus on “how do I get my number” (See footnote)  wouldn’t get him to getting his number.  The approach of, “how do I get the customer to recognize and take action on problems I can solve” will always enable him to make the number.

His approach made him highly effective, efficient, and impactful.  He didn’t get diverted.  He didn’t waste time on things that didn’t help him achieve his and the customer’s goals.  He was always focused on the customer, so customers welcomed him into the accounts to work with them.

We all have to have a “context” that allows us to evaluate everything we do.  Absent that, we don’t know if our activities move us forward or are just a waste.

Many readers may say, “Well I don’t get it.  I do account plans, what’s he doing that’s different?”  Too often, we do account plans because “that’s what sales people are supposed to do.”  But we set them aside and go back to our jobs, wandering aimlessly through our accounts and territories, with the plea, “Are you interested in learning about my product?  Do you want to buy?”  This gentleman was revisiting his plans in everything he did.  Account planning was not a thing sales people do, but how he prioritizes what he does every day.

Do you have a context for everything you do.  Can you tie every single activity to goals you have established in your account, territory, and opportunity plans?  Can you tie everything you do back to something that is impactful and important to the customer?

If you can’t, then you are wasting a lot of time!

Thanks Justin–both for buying dinner but for teaching me something new!

(Footnote:  Too often, our account/territory planning focuses on “reaching the number.”  If we’re “sophisticated,” we may include a little buffer or contingency in case some things don’t work out.  In truth, our customers always have problems that are bigger than our number.  If we focus our plans on getting the customer to want to solve those problems, we’ll always make our number!)

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  1. Dave, this is excellent – if you don’t start with this attitude, your probability of building a strategic partnership with an account is near zero.


  2. David, fantastic post.

    Context is everything, focusing on what the customers problems are and how you enable your customers to achieve their goals, crush their competition, avoid losing money etc. etc. is phenomenal account planning.

    Great story Dave. Every sales person needs to read this.

    • Jim, great to see you here again! Absent context, we are aimless–we accomplish nothing and we waste the customer’s time doing so.

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