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Jul 27 20

Raising My Game

by David Brock

I find myself, increasingly, writing posts about the terrible state of practice in selling. There are the posts about terrible prospecting, clueless sales people, horrible managers.

These posts generate a lot of attention and activity. The comments, likes, and shares skyrocket. I suppose it’s human nature, we all have so much fun calling out obviously bad performance.

And sadly, there are too many examples of horrible sales practice. It becomes too easy to call these out. It really isn’t a problem with the sales people we call out, it’s a management and leadership problem. It’s managers that encourage and train people to execute badly, particularly when we know what great selling is about. They implement programs that are unfocused, sloppy, that represent the worst practice. But they make up for the shoddiness by demanding high volumes of this self centered practice.

Or it’s managers that do nothing about consistently bad performance, they don’t coach and develop the people, they don’t address performance issues.

But, thanks to a great friend calling me out on these posts, I’ve realized I’m not helping my readers. As much fun as it is to make fun of such obviously poor performance, we learn nothing.

It’s much harder, yet possibly more impactful, to look at good performance, discussing, “How do we improve? How to we go from good to great performance (with thanks to Jim Collins)?”

So I’m refocusing my writing. I’m going to focus more on identifying the good things sales people and managers do, but examine, how we can improve on that, continuing to learn and constantly improving.

I will, periodically, just for fun, do posts on the obviously stupid, but they will be the exception–and purely for comic fun, to laugh. The majority of my posts will focus on how the good get better.

It is really about you, the reader. Bad sales people and managers don’t read this blog. Good and great sales people and managers who want to get much better, who want to learn and grow are the primary audience. I need to serve you better.

Please hold me accountable for raising my game.

Afterword: Thank you Brent!

Jul 23 20

“We Need To Discount…..”

by David Brock

It was a morning of deal reviews. The sales person was reviewing the deals expected to close by the end of the quarter.

Deal after deal, there were differing issues that had to be addressed for each deal. We developed action plans to address them. But I started noticing a problem, 100% of the deals required a “discount.”

“What’s the problem, why do we need to discount in each of these deals?” I asked. “Do we have a pricing problem? Or is it something else?”

The sales person immediately responded, “Yes we have a pricing problem, we need to substantively reduce our prices on everything, I can’t compete without lower prices….”

But then we started to look at some of the data, we analyzed all the deals that had been won and lost in the past 2 years. Fewer than 10% of the deals won required a discount (outside of normal volume discounts or quarter end incentive programs).

We looked at the lost deals. Those are always a bit of a challenge, it’s so easy to code those deals as “lost” because of pricing. But we did a quick review of a number of the deals, discussing why they had really been lost. While price may have been an issue, it was not THE issue in the majority of the deals. There was always something else that impacted the ability to win the deal.

I went back to the sales person, “I’m confused, why do all your deals need discounts? As I look at the data from all your peers, and historic data, you seem to be the only one that has this challenge with everyone of your deals, what am I missing?”

I’ll stop here, you know how this came out. While the sales person had all sorts of arguments suggesting discounts were required for all her deals, it was really a selling skills issue. The sales person could not articulate or differentiate the value. Her sole strategy for winning against competition was to discount–even when the competitor solutions might have been more expensive.

Sadly, there are too many sales people, and leaders, who sell solely on price. Their winning strategy is not to articulate the differentiation between alternative solutions. It never includes articulation or defense of a value proposition. It never includes a business justification, showing the business improvement the customer should expect. The financial concept of “Payback,” which is an indicator of time to results, is interpreted by these sales people as “what do we have to ‘pay back’ to the customer to get the order?”

Selling on price is not selling. It does not require an understanding of what the customer is trying to achieve. It does not require an understanding of the differentiation between alternatives. It does not require helping the customer navigate their buying process.

Selling on price, is not selling. It’s not about shifting opinions, changing minds, influencing the customer. It is not about creating differentiation and demonstrating superiority of a certain approach, product, or solution.

When we sell by price, we are ceding the leadership to our customers or our competition. We are saying, “What they do, only cheaper……”

Of course there are times when we choose to discount. It should always be considered thoughtfully. It must always be an exception to address a very special, unique issue. It is never a what we do for every deal.

Sales people owe their customers better performance. They owe their customers articulating the value, differentiating their offering, and defending their value. They owe their customers, value co-creation.

Sales people owe their companies better performance. They need to create and defend their value. They need to differentiate based on a superior ability to solve the customer problem, not just a lower price. They need to maintain and defend the pricing in terms meaningful and relevant to the customer.

Jul 22 20

“Begin With The End In Mind….”

by David Brock

The second habit in Stephen Covey’s classic, The Seven Habit Of Highly Effective People, is “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s extraordinarily powerful in so many ways.

Today, I was participating in a number of deal reviews. They weren’t remarkably different from the 1000’s of other deal reviews I participate in. The sales people, outlined the deal, where they were and the next steps. As usual, all of the deal were significantly behind where the sales people wanted them to be. They were slipping from quarter to quarter. Some, which had been sure things, were now at risk.

As the sales people presented their strategies, the sales people kept focusing on the next steps. Often, these next steps kept slipping because the customer kept getting diverted and pushing things off. Alternatively, the customer didn’t have the same sense of urgency the sales people had.

One of the reviewers asked, “At the end of each meeting with the customer, do you agree on next steps and target dates?” Most of the time, the sales person responded affirmatively, but then the follow up meetings would be cancelled or postponed.

And deals slip and slip and slip and….. then they disappear.

Each of the sales people recognized this pattern. Next steps would not happen when they were planned. Things would come up. Too often, next steps weren’t defined, waiting for the customer to take action.

Deal after deal, the stories are similar. Deals slip and slip and slip……

Yet sales people keep doing the same things, knowing the same things are likely to happen.

Part of the problem is, we always focus on “what’s next?” We and the customer look at “what are the next activities, what should be be doing next.”

But those next steps always fall victim to the next crisis, or attention/priorities getting diverted, or just plain forgetting or blowing something off.

But we and our customers keep doing the same thing.

What if we took Covey’s advice and applied it to working with our customers in their buying journey?

What is we started with the end in mind? Perhaps we would talk to the customer about what they wanted to achieve, why it’s important to them, when they need to have something in place, what would happen if they don’t have things in place by the date they had determined?

Once this “end” is cemented in the customer’s and our minds, then everything we do is oriented around achieving that end goal–not just the next step.

We start to think about all the things we need to accomplish, not just the next thing. We start to have time sensitivity to accomplishing those things. When we encounter something unexpected, we don’t just slip our schedule, we adjust everything we do to achieve our shared goal.

Covey’s habit helps us become more purposeful and intentional in achieving goals we set for ourselves.

Applying this principle to our deal strategies and supporting the customer in their buying journey keeps us aligned, purposeful, and intentional about that we want to help our customers accomplish.

Begin every buying journey, every deal strategy with the end in mind. What is the customer trying to achieve, by when, why is it important for them to do this?

Jul 21 20

Achieving Our Goals Through Our Customers

by David Brock

Sales people tend to be incredibly goal oriented. We are focused on hitting our numbers–our performance, often our compensation is based on whether we are hitting our numbers.

As a result, we and our managers are intensely focused. We measure ourselves based on quota attainment. We focus on getting the PO, getting the order so that we achieve our goals.

Somewhat incredibly, sales people go to customers saying, “I need your order this month to hit my goals…..” Usually that’s accompanied with, “If you do, I’ll give you a discount.”

The problem is, it’s not the customer’s job to help us meet our goals. The only way we make our goals is through helping our customers achieve theirs. If our customers aren’t accomplishing what they want to accomplish, we will not/should not be expecting an order.

This seems so obvious, but somehow too many sales people miss this. Companies don’t buy to help us achieve our goals. They buy to help achieve their goals.

But I sit through deal reviews, sales people focus on what they are trying to achieve. When I ask the question, “What are they trying to achieve? What happens if they don’t achieve that,” I get blank stares.

The conversation always shifts to, “What can we do to get the order?” Sales people and managers look at convoluted strategies, “Can we offer an incentive? How do we light a fire under them? What can we do to get them to buy?”

But the conversation never gets to, “How do we help them achieve their goals? What’s standing in the ways of them achieving what they want to achieve?”

Call me silly, but I wonder how much more effective we might be if, rather than focusing on our goals, we focused on helping the customer achieve theirs. And through that, we achieve ours.