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Nov 25 20

Action Plans, The Well Structured “To-Do”

by David Brock

My life seems to be spent in one meeting after another. Reviews of all types, planning sessions, problem solving sessions, training—you name it, I go from meeting to meeting.

In most of those meetings, we are trying to address some issue–how to win a deal, how to address performance issues, how to address organizational/structural issues, how to address new opportunities or problems.

In each of these meetings, there are the the follow ups, action plans, next steps, or to-dos. These are critical, they enable us to make progress in achieving our goals and objectives.

But our action plans lose a lot of their strength and purposefulness because we construct them so poorly. For example, some from today:

  • Meet with the customer and partner.
  • Evaluate potential partners.
  • Develop plan to address customer concerns.
  • Develop staffing plan.
  • Identify project risks.
  • …and I could go on.

Perhaps, I’m the only one that experiences this, but often, I come back to these reviewing them, thinking, “WTF were we talking about? What does this mean?”

For these action plans to be effective and impactful they must have several elements:

  1. Who is responsible? For example, “Dave, meet with the customer and partner…..”
  2. They have to be specific! For example, the customer and partners have names, “Dave meet with Dan and Brian from the customer and Jackie from the partner……”
  3. They have to be time bound. For example, “Dave meet with Dan, Brian, and Jackie, by December 2…….”
  4. They have to achieve a defined purpose or outcome. “Dave, meet with Dan, Brian, and Jackie, by December 2, to develop the implementation plan for this purchase. It must identify all risks, project responsibilities, project plans, target dates and resource requirements……..”

See how this changes the perspective and drives us to better outcomes? We know who is responsible, who is involved, when we need to complete the item and what successfully completing it looks like.

We are trying to be as focused and purposeful as possible. We are trying to remove any possibility for misunderstanding, forgetting, or ambiguity.

We miss goals or deadlines when we aren’t specific. We create rework when we aren’t specific. We risk misunderstanding or confusion when we aren’t specific. We fail to achieve–at least as effectively and efficiently as possible when we aren’t specific.

Focus on building well structured “To-dos.” You’ll be amazed at what you accomplish.

Afterword: For extra credit points, try this approach for structuring your meetings. For example, “We are meeting at this date and time to accomplish these objectives…. At the end of the meeting we hope to have achieved this…. Please bring this information…. and be prepared to discuss these issues…..” You’ll find yourself having far more impactful meetings–whether with customers or internally.

Nov 25 20

Looking For What Isn’t Being Done Or Said

by David Brock

Just today, alone, I’ve been in several meetings. A couple were deal reviews, one was a major strategy/restructuring discussion. I learned more in these sessions by what they didn’t say and present than by what they did say.

Listening/observing what isn’t being said or done is as important to understanding what is being done. Whether it is working with a customer moving them through their buying cycle; working with your people in deal, account, or other reviews; or major strategy/business planning sessions.

When we focus only on what’s being said, we are focused on what people know and how they are responding to what they know. The problem is, it’s seldom what we know that hurts us. It’s those things we don’t know, or don’t address that hurt us.

And often, are blinded because we don’t know what we don’t know.

So one of the most important things we can do as sales people or leaders is listen to what is not being said that should be, try to find what’s not being done that must be done.

Helping our customers and people think differently, helping them discover what they (and we) might be missing, enables us to learn, grow, developing and implementing solutions that are more likely to be successful.

Repeating myself, it’s never the things we know and have addressed that impact us, it’s those things we don’t know. Focus on reducing what you don’t know.

Nov 23 20

Chaos, Complexity, Predictable Revenue, Making “Big Moves”

by David Brock

For the past decade, so many have sought to mechanize selling, creating predictable revenue. We developed methods and approaches, we’ve transactionalized the selling process, in spite of too many customers finding increased difficulty in navigating their buying processes. Even before the pandemic and collapse of the economy, how we sold became increasingly unpredictable.

The percent of people making their goals continued to decline, organizations churned more rapidly, with tenure declining to 16.5 months. Sales leaders, increasingly, struggled to make sense of changes in their markets and to discover changes in the way the organized and executed their selling processes. At the same time, customers increasingly struggled to make sense of their complex worlds.

And then, the world turned upside down. The pandemic hit, businesses shut down, every company, every country, every community, each one of us have been confronted with a world few have experienced.

We struggle to make sense, we struggle to understand, we struggle to respond. We long to get “back to normal,” in our businesses, communities, and families.

The models that served us before are failing, or, in the least, no longer as effective as they had been.

Actually, we should not be surprised. We are living in worlds that are increasingly complex, by themselves, and when they intersect. We have long known the customer buying process is non linear, more closely resembling a bowl of spaghetti and characterized as “squishy.” Yet, for years, the selling world has responded by thinking linearly, sequentially forcing customers through our predictable selling processes (which, weren’t very predictable.).

And these already complex, unstable worlds have been disrupted tremendously, What wasn’t working well in the past is not working at all. Some respond by cutting costs, stopping as much as they can, wishing for miracles. Some are battening down the hatches, hoping to struggle through, thinking we will get back to normal–not recognizing the world has changed forever.

And then there are a few who see this as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, their organizations, and how they engage customers. They seek to disrupt themselves, their people, their companies, and how they engage their customers.

These leaders see an opportunity in what we face. The world has turned upside down, and they are responding to and creating new opportunities.

They are experimenting, they are collaborating, they are thinking differently. Where others will take no risks, hoping for stability, they recognize the biggest risk is not taking advantage of the opportunity to radically change and redefine how they work and engage.

As one executive shared, “Right now you have the ‘air cover’ to make some big moves. If there has ever been a chance to reshape an organization, now is the time!”

It turns out, making big moves, is the least risky strategy for moving forward. What a wonderful opportunity to reshape our and our customers’ worlds.

Nov 23 20

“This Is Not A New Concept….”

by David Brock

On a recent post, someone commented, “This is not a new concept….” He was absolutely right, I had traced an origin of an idea back to the 1950-60’s, so it is an idea that is at least 60-70 years old. I suspect if one read some philosophers or scientists, the idea might be traced back centuries (to satisfy your curiosity, it was my post on the 5 Why’s.)

The comment got me reflecting. We have a fascination with that which appears new and different, we are attracted to bright shiny objects. It’s a lot like the fashion industry, every year, that which was “new and fashionable” is displaced by something newer

We have file drawers, or terabytes of cloud storage with all those artifacts of the past. Past training programs, last year’s tools (which we never used anyway), many things that were highly effective and some which weren’t are no longer valid, displaced by this year’s version.

It is no longer fashionable to talk about sales enablement, now it’s revenue enablement. Challenger, consultative selling, value based selling is all so “yesterday.” Critical thinking is being displaced by artificial intelligence (though so much of what people purported to be intelligent has always seemed artificial).

Pundits, guru’s, “thought leaders,” continue to look for next year’s model—what are the sexiest techniques, tricks, methods for 2021, 2022?

Yet, we aren’t doing better. Our performance continues to decline, our ability to connect with our customers gets more difficult. We create less value with our customers, so they look at different places. Our ability to retain our people us worse.

We face accelerating change, disruption, complexity. We face mounting uncertainty and risk. We face things we and our customers have never experienced.

What if we went back to the basics? What if we focused less on the new and different, but focus on those foundations that we know have always worked?

Every season, every sports team and athlete always starts with the basics. Basketball teams start with basic fitness, dribbling, passing, footwork. Soccer is the same. Football, baseball, tennis, cycling, endurance athletes all do the same thing.

Regardless how experienced they are, regardless of past championships, they always go back to fundamentals, making sure they master those, then moving forward.

In some sense, basic principles, are like the laws of physics. They have endured for centuries. They are the foundation of everything that we do, they are the “Why” that underlies those things that we know to work.

As we look to improve performance, it’s useful to go back to the fundamentals and basics. It’s useful to go back to foundations and fundamentals, understanding them, adapting them for our current situations, executing them with consistency and discipline.

Instead, we spend a lot of time focusing on the “bright shiny objects.” We look at tricks and techniques, we look for the short cuts to success. They work, sometimes. But the challenge is, they don’t work consistently. In fact, increasingly, the short cuts, tricks, techniques, are no longer working like they used to.

Sometimes, what is old is new.