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May 3 20

An Unprecedented Opportunity

by David Brock

The current pandemic and financial crises create an unprecedented opportunity to engage our customers in high value and impact ways.

In normal times, helping the customer understand and committing to change is, often, the biggest challenge. It is human nature to resist change. Unless the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of change, the rational decision for many is to do nothing. Too often, our customers my not recognize the need to change or have no sense of urgency around changing.

Today, our own organizations, our suppliers, our customers, our competitors all face a changed world. For most, change is not an option, it’s mandatory. The issues become which changes must we make now, how do we manage the risks of those changes, how do we accelerate time to results?

Our customers are struggling, they are trying to cope, to adjust. For some weeks, for many, their lives and businesses have been on pause. For others, their businesses may have suffered greatly by massive shutdowns.

They are trying to re-establish growth, to adjust to new realities, in the face of many unknowns. They are trying to figure out what to do, which of many things they might prioritize, and how they move forward. For many, the highest priority projects may be very unfamiliar. They’ve not done them before, or at least not done them when faced with the current realities.

They need help!

Since virtually all our customers are facing the same challenges, we huge potential. Helping our customers understand what they should do, helping them understand the issues, risk, challenges and how we can help manage them. Developing plans that maximize their success and minimize time to results are critical as they begin to recover and rebuild.

But remember, to capitalize on this, opportunity, all our focus has to be on the customer and how we help them navigated these uncertain times. It is not about us or our products, it is about how we help them recover and move forward.

May 1 20

“Why Did This Happen?”

by David Brock

One of the most positive things about sales people and leaders is their “action orientation.” Great sales people are driven to take action. Whether its prospecting to find new customers, or moving an opportunity forward, or getting support from within their own organizations or within their customers. Likewise managers want to make sure they have the right people, doing the right things. They want to see the right activity levels, the progress with opportunities, full pipelines, strong account/territory plans.

When there’s a problem, for example a stalled opportunity, or anemic pipelines, there’s a propensity to leap into action. Perhaps breaking a stalled deal loose by provoking the customer, escalating, making a time based offer such as a discount. Or filling anemic pipelines by more prospecting.

A lot of this is driven by past experience–“when these things happened before, doing these things worked…..”

But the problem is, often, those things aren’t working, or they aren’t working as well. For example, emails and phone calls helped identify prospects, so when we need more prospects, we just do more emails and phone calls to more people. If they don’t produce the desired results, then we just do more and more and more….

When we see these patterns of things not working, or not working as well as they did in the past, it’s insanity to keep doing them, ramping volume and intensity. But that seems the dominant approach in much of what we do.

It’s important for us to pause, to resist our tendency toward blind activity. We need to step back, asking ourselves, “Why is this happening? What is causing these outcomes?”

Often we need to probe several levels, to really understand the cause/effect relationships or what’s happening or what’s changed. There’s the famous tool, “5 why’s,” where we drill down to understand the root issues or causes that impact us.

Probing to understand the underlying issues that impact performance is critical to identifying the performance levers and the most appropriate path forward. For example. more prospecting might not be the best thing to do to fix anemic pipelines, particularly if we have relatively low win rates. It might be better to address the win rate issue, improving our abilities to win those things we have in our pipelines, rather than just pursuing more.

As we look at increasing complexity, challenging times, rapid change/disruption, our propensity for action is often the wrong thing. We must pause, think, ask ourselves “why,” perhaps 5 times. We have to diagnose, understanding what really is happening. Only then can we identify the highest leverage activities to get back on track and achieving our goals.

Apr 24 20

Pandemic Prospecting

by David Brock

I don’t mean to be insensitive to the challenges we all face in dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic. We all are struggling, individually, community-wise, and organizationally to stay healthy, to cope, and understand how to move forward.

As we look at our own companies, every organization has had to reset their plans to adjust to the new realities presented by this global health and economic crisis.

In many ways, the pandemic has created an opportunity rich environment for us. Our customers, like us, are struggling to understand, to cope, to develop strategies to move forward. Their issues are less about “if we change,” but more that “change is mandatory, but how/what do we change?” For many, the ability to do this means their survival as enterprises and businesses.

They are facing circumstances they have never faced before. They must adapt and change, but, again, they struggle with what that means, how to change, how to recover, how to manage the risks–both to their people, their organizations, and their own customers/suppliers.

But while we face an opportunity rich environment, we need to be very focused and selective with those we prospect. This may seem counter to what managers and executives may be directing sales people to do. As each of our companies struggle to cope, to recover and start rebuilding revenue growth, the temptation is to cast a wider net. Of course this is not new, it seems the solution to building pipeline has always been casting a wider net, getting further away from our ideal customers, despite continued evidence that it doesn’t work.

But as we prospect now, it’s even more important to be hyper-focused. Customers are struggling, they need and want help. They are moving from cost reduction and cash preservation to revenue generation, risk management, and cash-flow management.

Our customers are very focused on the projects that have the greatest impact on their short term recovery goals. At the same time, they are still trying to figure out what those goals might be and which projects they might prioritize.

We become much more impactful and effective by viciously narrowing our focus. We must focus on the problems we are the best in the world at solving, and those customers having the highest sense of urgency in addressing these problems now. Customers are changing, they are buying, but they are focused only on those things most critical now.

Of course, none of this is new. Focusing on our ideal customers and those who are committed to change has always been the cornerstone of effective prospecting. But the intensity of our customers’ focus and the urgency they have to act create huge opportunities for them, and as a result for us.

Revenue recovery, risk management, cash-flow management is the highest priority for our customers and us. We have a huge opportunity, but we capture it by narrowing our focus and helping the customer learn how we help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

Apr 23 20

What Do Our Customers Care About Now?

by David Brock

We are experiencing the mother of all “trigger events.” No company, no community, no region is immune to the health and economic challenges created by the pandemic.

We all have a compelling mandate to change. We–our people, our own organizations, our customers, our suppliers, our communities–are being forced to adapt and change. As much as some will resist the need to change, perhaps waiting things out, hoping things will get back to “the way they were before,” change has become mandatory.

Our customers are facing issues they have never faced and may not have the tools, knowledge or expertise to face. They need and want help.

As I talk to organizations, I am seeing some interesting shifts in priorities and strategies.

As the pandemic first hit, many of the strategies and priorities focused on cost reduction/containment. New investments were stopped or slowed. Many projects were stopped. Discretionary spending was cut as much as possible. In many organizations, people were laid off or furloughed.

In selling to customers during the initial weeks of the pandemic probably required a focus on cost reduction. Customers were interested in any solutions that could reduce costs and maximize cashflow.

In just the few short weeks since these initial, often knee jerk, reactions, I’m seeing a shift in the focus of many organizations. Some realized they over-reacted and cut too much, particularly around investments that would enable future growth.

Others have realized cost reduction is meaningless without revenue. They are shifting their priorities to looking at things that drive revenue growth. They recognize they have to invest in things that help them produce revenue. At the same time, cashflow is important, so the focus will be on the shortest path to revenue generation.

In all of these risk is always a critical issue. Understanding, managing, and minimizing risk is a top priority.

As our customers shift their priorities to revenue generation, they will focus on the few most critical projects. In the past, where customer may have had dozens to hundreds of projects to support their growth and business objectives, they will be far more conservative. They will invest slowly, choosing the few highest priorities, those that maximize revenue generation while minimizing impact on cashflow and risk.

As a result, our competition changes. For example, if we sell IT solutions to support revenue generation, our competition may not be just our competitors, but solutions in completely different areas–for example supply chain management, customer service or other areas.

If we are to be successful in achieving our goals, we must focus on what’s important to our customers right now. We have to understand where they are in their change/recovery life cycle. Are they still prioritizing cost containment? Have they moved on to revenue generation? What are the cashflow issues they are managing? What’s their ability to manage risk given current circumstances.

As it’s always been, our success has little to do with what we sell, but how we help our customers achieve their goals and objectives. If we are to be successful in our own companies’ revenue generation/recovery efforts, our engagement strategies have to focus on what’s important to the customer now.

Do you know what your customers care about now, do you understand how their priorities and strategies may have changed in just a few weeks. Do you have solutions that help the customer address their highest priority needs today?

In some sense, we face an opportunity rich environment. Where inciting customers to change may have been a huge issue in the past, change is mandatory for everyone in every industry, in every geography. Our challenge in today’s environment is to find those customers that have prioritized the problems we solve as their most urgent.