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Meet “Bob”

by David Brock on March 28th, 2019

Meet “Bob,” Bob is the diagram below. I wish I could take credit for the brilliance underlying Bob, but the credit goes to one of my favorite clients, a top performing sales organization in the semiconductor industry.

Bob is a discussion of virtually any type of business opportunity or challenge your customer faces. But it is probably very unfamiliar, because very few sales people assess their customers’ problems–and how they can help in this way.

The problem is, this is the way business managers in all of your customers assess their problems.

  • The red represents financial losses of some sort. It could be lost revenue, lost customers, lost opportunity, threats. It could be investment or spending in getting something done (including the investments in solving a problem).
  • The green represents returns, increases in revenue, growth, new customers, or the monetized results of what they are doing.
  • The dotted line represents time to money or time to results.

Everything the customer wants to achieve and everything we do with the customer can be expressed in some or, ideally, all the elements of this chart.

  • How can we reduce the negative financial impacts of the problems/opportunities they are addressing?
  • How can we increase the returns they get from addressing these problems, opportunities?
  • How can we move the dotted line to the left, reducing time to money or results?

Each one of the green and red bars may represent different specific areas in our customers business. For example, with this particular client, some of these models relate to new product development and launch, so some of the red bars represent product definition, product development, pre-production and ramp up. Some of the green bars represent fulfilling customer buying needs, manufacturing, shipping and services.

Their sales people are equipped to discuss each red and green bar with their customers, as well as to help the customer explore how to move the dotted line to the left. Some of those conversations (bars) are focused on development issues, some focused on manufacturing issues, some focused on product launch/sales/marketing, some focused on customer service/warranty.

The point is each of these have different meanings to people involved in the buying process, and the sales people are adept in having the right conversation with the right people at the right time. And these are business conversations, not semiconductor conversations.

This also equips them to have business focused conversations with senior levels of management. Where a design engineer may only be impacted by a couple of those red and green bars, as you go up the management food chain, they will have broader perspectives.

Being able to talk about Bob with each of their customers has shifted the conversations and value the sales people create with their customers. It changes how their customers think and engage them, and how they make their buying decisions.

Each of our customers has their variation of Bob. If we don’t understand it, if we aren’t prepared to engage them in discussions of how we impact their version of Bob, we are neither creating value with them, nor positioning our solutions in ways meaningful to them.

Our customers may have multiple versions of Bob. Bob may be different depending on the problem/opportunity. Bob may be different based on the industry/market segment their customers live in. Bob may be different based on the product/solution categories your customers are assessing.

But we all have Bob. We need to understand how we impact each red and green bar and how we move the dotted line to the left. We need to do this, because Bob is, ultimately, what our customers care about.

Do you know how to talk about Bob with your customers?

Afterword: Some may be curious about how Bob was named. It’s not an acronym. The B-O-B don’t stand for cool words. In developing this approach to engaging their customers, my friends didn’t know what to call this model, so they decided to call it Bob.

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  1. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Hi Dave

    I love how you’ve shared Bob – nicely done!

    One thing I don’t recall if you & I discussed it when we met recently and discussed Bob is how you can (and should?!) use it to qualify…

    You can qualify the client contact early on in an engagement – anybody not interested in discussing SOME aspect of Bob is not a key influencer or decision maker… OR they are but have had a brain fart, so move on to somebody who IS interested in such a conversation…

    Ditto for the client as a whole – if their strategic objectives aren’t firmly and explicitly rooted in Bob – run!!!

    Specifically anybody not interested in a conversation about how to SHORTEN the time to money/results – which is not necessarily the same as REDUCING the TOTAL amount of red… is not the person to be wasting time on…

    And at the project/opportunity level too – any project that isn’t going to have a good impact on Bob in ways that matter to the client enough, AND that isn’t also an opportunity for you to make a reasonable return – at or above your target margin model – well, that’s one to walk way from – even if it is in the most important client you have… (This is why we also have our Prime Directive – did we discuss that too? I don’t recall…)

    Why is it more important to spend less time in red, even more so than reducing the amount of red overall? Because the longer you are in red, the more likely it is, the greater the risk, that something critical changes that negates the potential benefits of whatever you’ve been working towards whilst in the red area.

    The focus for the green area is to be there as long as possible, to make each green bar as tall as possible. That’s about supply chain security and stability for most of the green bars, and then about managing the risks of the end of the market, when the green bars run out – something you rarely have control over… so the discussion there with the client is about reducing the impact of market end of life.

    Procurement folks want to debate and discuss 5-10% reductions in the costs of what they are buying. These amounts frankly pale in to insignificance compared to the costs of being caught in the red when the market changes direction, or missing out on more green because you skimped on a solution and supplier with a more secure and stable supply chain offering…

    Bob is a great way of moving conversations from price to value, and to naturally show where and how and why you are different to and better than your competition, from the only perspective that matters – your client’s.

    By the way, we did have to give Bob an acronym in the end when we formalized it as part of our recent training and integration in to our sales support systems/Compass – Best Outcome for Business – whose business? The client’s, and through that, ours too!

    But as you stated in your article – the real reason we called this Bob was we didn’t know what else to call it that wasn’t some explosion of Management Consultant Bingo/Alphabet Soup!!

    I suggested Bob because, well, see the closing scene of the animated sci fi movie “Titan A.E.” – you can find it on YouTube – and my team agreed. Nutters!

    Happy Brexit Day!! (29 March)



    • Martin, thanks so much. There are so many ways Bob can be applied. Thanks also for the background on “Bob”

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