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Aug 10 22

What We Lose In Our Focus On Tactics…..

by David Brock

My social feeds are filled with advice and tips proclaiming, “If you just do this, you will blow away your quotas and max your comp plan!”

Many of these seem to be focusing on that very first conversation with the customer. “Just use a pattern interrupt….” “Say these words….” “Do these sequences….” There are others, focusing on specific objections, others may address closing, or how to handle the demo.

There are techniques or tactics that have worked for these “experts.” And, according to them, doing this is “guaranteed to work for you.” And then people go out doing this, all looking the same, and eventually it no longer works. When this happens, the “experts” have another tactic or technique, “Just do this…”

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes these tactics are useful. I’ve leveraged some myself. But they are seldom sustainable. Additionally, the failure rate of those who implement these tactics is relatively high. More importantly, the tactic, in and of itself, just gets you to the next point. It doesn’t get you to the end of the process, it doesn’t produce the slam dunk that was hoped for.

There is a key problem with, “say these words, use this technique, do this one thing.” It focuses on that thing, not what you and the customer are trying to achieve. Let’s dive into it.

Most of the time, these tactics are very narrowly focused. They enable you to get to the next step, but don’t provide the help to get to the end of the job. For example, if I say the right words on the first phone call, it gets me to the next phone call. But what do I do with that, and then what’s next, and next, and next. Tactics help us with just one thing, but they don’t enable us to develop and end to end strategy to achieve our goals. For example, the pattern interrupt, gets a person to stay on the phone, but it tells you nothing about what to talk about in the rest of that conversation, much less how to get the next conversation and the next.

It’s how we put everything together that sets us apart!

We have to think of what we do, why we are doing it, and how we execute it in more holistic ways. We spend too much time focusing on the words that come out of our mouths, the subject line that causes someone to open an email, or some other tactic that moves us half a step forward, but provides no clarity on how we put it all together in an effective and efficient execution strategy.

We have all sorts of examples, from other spaces. A chess champion doesn’t think of the next move–thinking is about the whole board, a series of moves, and how they achieve a goal. A military tactician doesn’t think just of “landing on the beach,” but what the overall goal of the initiative is and all the things that must be done to achieve the objective–as well as contingencies when a tactic doesn’t work. Gamer’s don’t think of the next action, but they think about all the players, the whole game, and alternatives to achieving their goal–nimbly adapting their strategies as the game unfolds.

Decades ago, Dr. Stephen Covey suggested a key habit, “Start with the end in mind.”

In the context of selling, this habit forces us to think about what we do differently. For example, if we are looking at achieving our quotas, we start by asking ourselves questions about what it takes to achieve our quotas: How many opportunities of what average size does it take? Where should we focus to find those opportunities? How many customers do we have to talk to to find enough interested in considering a change? How do we find and engage those customers? What are things that may adversely impact our ability to do this?

As we look at opportunities, we have to start with things like, What’s the customer trying to achieve, why, and when? What are the things we and the customer must go through to get to the end point? Why are these important to the customer and us? What happens if we don’t do these things? And the list goes on. We put together the activities we and the customer must go through to achieve the goal. Most importantly, we and the customer understand why we need to do these activities, the consequences of not doing them. Once we understand this, we figure out how we best accomplish each activity.

For those who are students of systems thinking, you will recognize this as systems thinking. And we know that once we have the elements of the system defined and how they interact, we can then focus on the subsystem figuring out what to do. And we keep breaking that down until we have defined each thing that must be done, how it’s done, how it fits, and why it’s important. We also understand what happens when that thing might not work as expected.

This perspective gives us a rich view of how to more effectively engage our customers. Getting the customer to listen to our first sentence, giving us the ability to make the next sentence becomes less important in engaging our customers. We have the ability to be much more nimble and adaptable when we understand how the pieces/parts fit together to achieve the overall goal.

One of the magic things is this helps us focus on the customer, thinking the way they are thinking. They are focused on achieving a goal, solving a problem, moving forward. They don’t care about a single sentence or a single email title that causes them to give permission to say the next sentence.

Tactics only make sense in the context of an overall strategy and goal. By themselves, at best, they get us to the next step, but don’t provide insight on how to proceed.

Afterword: Thanks to Jeff Molander to provoking my thinking on this topic!

Aug 8 22

“Frictionless” Experience

by David Brock

I read an article, “In Search Of The Frictionless Organization.” While some of the basic ideas about creating great customer experience by “eliminating friction,” are very good, I think the concept of eliminating friction demonstrates a huge misunderstanding of friction and how important it is.

First, what is friction? In science, friction is “the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and material elements sliding against each other.”

In the physical world, without friction, most movement would be impossible. Without friction, things would move in the same direction forever–change would be impossible without some other force creating friction and shifting velocity and direction.

Depending on what we are trying to achieve, we may find it valuable to reduce friction–for example to speed something up, or increase friction–to slow something down or change direction.

The same concept is important as we look at the friction of what we do. Friction is very important, rather than eliminating friction, we want to manage/optimize it.

Friction in customer support, as the article points out, could create difficulty for our customers. But understanding this friction is really important to us, it helps us learn more about our customers, their difficulties, challenges, how we could better serve them. Friction is helpful for the customer, it helps them better understand, learn, and change. Without friction, we would would continue on the same path, never changing–though it may be critical for us to change.

Likewise, we experience friction within our organizations. Differences in ideas, priorities, strategies, goals. This friction is important because it helps us identify opportunities to change, learn, grow and improve.

Rather than eliminating friction, we really want to understand it, we may find ways to reduce it–which, like in physical objects, could help us move faster. We may find it drives us to change, to do something differently.

So eliminating friction, or even the making things effortless (apologies to my friends Nick Toman and Matt Dixon) cause us to lose contact with our customers, and ourselves. Rather than eliminating friction, we want to understand it, using to learn, improve, change.

Aug 7 22

“Our Ideals Typically Outstrip Our Performance….”

by David Brock

I’m filled with optimism about the future of selling and business. We are in a period of change, where we have the possibility, and the necessity to reinvent what we do, and how we do it. Customers are changing, possibly faster than we. Technology provides us capabilities we have never dreamed of. We have the capability and capacity to contribute to our customers, organizations, peers, and our own growth in new and powerful ways.

“…I eventually learned these things…..and rather instilled in me a sense of how much work we have yet to do to bring our values (ideals) more consistently into practice. It’s the human condition. Our ideals typically outstrip our performance, and more work is needed for improvement. It’s good to have such ideals precisely to give us direction and encourage us to grow and get better.” Tom Morris, The Everyday Patriot

I’m privileged to hang around some interesting people, people driven by a sense or purpose, improvement, personal growth, and contribution. They are challenged by what they do, they are curious about how to improve and create greater value in their work. These people aren’t just top executives, in fact more often, they are inspired individual contributors.

For example, this week, I had the privilege to have a conversation with Tobia La Marca, an Enterprise Sales Manager in Italy. He had recently moved from SDR and AE roles, and wanted to talk about the future of these roles and how to improve the experience and success of people entering these roles. It has been one of the most insightful discussions I’ve had on that topic in years. I asked Tobia about why it was so important to him. His response was about his personal growth, but also about how he could contribute to the growth of his profession and his peers.

I had a different conversation with my friend, Kevin “KD” Dorsey. Kevin has been a friend and client for years. Recently, he started consulting. We were talking about his work and his dreams. What struck me was his focus on his purpose and contribution. Too often, when I coach consultants, the focus is on the money. Kevin had discovered the money was relatively easy, while not unimportant, it wasn’t the driver to his success and his goals to achieve. He is driven to have an impact on the lives of the people and organizations he works with.

Every top performer I work with seems to have similar outlooks. Whether entry level, individual contributors, front line managers, senior executives, they are inspired and driven by something greater than the money/commissions, achieving quota. They seem to have a purpose around how they can contribute, how they can make a difference. It inspires their personal growth, more importantly it changes everyone they work with.

I’m not sure this purposefulness is something innate. I think we have the ability to learn, develop and grow. It may take some time to discover what it is. We may get lost (I know I have), along the way and have to reestablish it. In establishing it, we gain confidence. We recognize we have to continuously learn and develop. As Tom cites, sometimes our ideals/purpose outstrip our performance. But that just tells us what we have to learn and drives us to improve.

I worry, sometimes, that so many in our profession seem lost, that they don’t have goals or a purpose beyond making a living and staying out of trouble. I know that each of us can do more and be more. And when we start trying to achieve beyond getting the money and making quota, we lift those around us up. And that, in turn makes us better people.

Nothing any of us can do or say can make another commit to this. But hopefully, we can help people imagine the possibility and what it could mean for each of us and all of us.

Afterword: My friend, Tom Morris, has written probably one of the most important books I’ve read in some time. “The Everyday Patriot: How To Be A Great American Now.” As with all of Tom’s books, I find his message goes far beyond the title. If you read anything in the next weeks, make this one.

Aug 5 22

Would You Buy From Your Sellers?

by David Brock

Not long ago, I was speaking to the CRO of a sales technology company. We had a passing acquaintance, I’d been a guest on a webcast a couple of years ago, we had a few conversations and emails since then. I was, relatively, a fan of the tools they provide.

I reached out to this individual, saying, “Can we have a heart to heart…..?” I suspect he was surprised and, possibly, a little confused, but he agreed.

We jumped on a Zoom call, I said, “Can I share my screen?” I displayed the marketing/sales outreach emails I get from his company. 2-4 a day, every business day, for 2 years. Each of them addressed to “Hey you…” Each of them totally irrelevant to me, my interests, and my business.

We read the last 4 emails I had gotten, I asked, “If you were me, what would you do with these?”

He swallowed hard, “I’d SPAM them!”

I said, “OK, done….” I took all 4 and sent them to my junk mail folder with an unsubscribe.

We went on in our conversation. I told him I was a fan of the products, I thought they created good value for the sellers using them. I said, “I know what you and your team ‘preach’ in your webcasts and content about how to target customers, engage them with relevance and insight. But your people aren’t doing this in their own engagement approaches.”

It was a bit of an uncomfortable conversation, he was embarrassed and apologetic. I reassured him, “Don’t be worried, 95% of the providers of sales/marketing technologies do the same thing, so you’re not alone. But you need to change–and if you did, you would stand out from those competitors.”

We talked a little more about recommendations, pretty simple ideas. Better targeting, change the messaging, at least some personalization, “Dear Dave.” I asked, “Why do your customers/prospects need to hear from you 2-4 times a day, even if you are targeting and messaging them correctly?”

As we wound up, I asked, “Are you on your company’s mailing/prospect lists?” Not surprisingly, he wasn’t. He was totally unaware of what his team was inflicting on their prospects. He said, “I need to do that, but won’t they recognize me? Won’t they look at my LinkedIn profile?”

I said, clearly they won’t. “After all, your team knows that I’ve been on your webcasts, that you feature some of my articles, and who I am, but I still get this garbage. They aren’t doing the work you preach your customers’ sellers should be doing. If they were, I would not have gotten at least 80% of these emails!” We agreed, however, that he would subscribe as Jim.Smith@anemailaddress.com, and he would start looking at how his company markets to and sells to him. He asked, “How do I get on the list?”

“Just download any white paper, you’ll be hit with everything….” I replied.

Again, sadly, he is not alone. 90% of the prospecting emails I get are from sales and marketing technology companies, sales/marketing consultants/gurus, and other related organizations. 90% of that messaging is irrelevant to what I care about—though I do care about what those companies do and how they might be leveraged.

Are your people doing what you want them to be doing? Are they engaging people in the way you want them to be engaging them? Are they targeting the right people with impactful/relevant outreaches?

It’s easy to find out…..