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Sales Manager 2020 Survival Guide, with Dave Brock [Episode 777]

Author of the excellent book Sales Manager Survival Guide and a self-described ruthless pragmatist, Dave Brock helps us make sense of the current era from the front-line sales manager perspective.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Dave Brock. Welcome back to the show.

Dave Brock: Thanks, Andy. It’s always great to talk to you. So thanks for inviting me back again. I really appreciate it.

Andy Paul: Well, there’s never any question that we’d invite you back. You look like you’re enjoying yourself outside somewhere in sunny California.

Dave Brock: It’s one of the few times I am in sunny California, and I’m sitting outside the local library. I’ve been finishing my second book. So, the library is a good place to do it without distraction.

Andy Paul: True. True. As long as people aren’t coughing and sneezing on you


Since we’re recording this in the midst of the legitimate panic, I think about our concern, let’s say about the coronavirus. So yeah, so, okay. We’re kind of going to jump into a couple of things real quickly here. So one is want to talk about your sales execution framework and I know this was part of your last book. But it’s something that seems like it’s come back to sort of the top of the mind for you. And why is that?

Dave Brock: Well, it’s what it is, is as I start working with, with executives and sales organizations, you know, there really needs to be some rethinking of kind of almost back to basics. You know, they’re, you know, we, I think we’ve gone through kind of all these miracle cures and these wonderful technologies that aren’t producing the results.

And you start saying what produces the results? Well, it’s basic principles of selling that somehow we’ve forgotten about. So number one. Number two is it’s doing the whole job. I mean, I think we read so much about cold calling and prospecting. If we only did enough cold calling and prospecting, everything else would be good, but you know, you have to do pipeline management, deal management, account management, territory management. And if you don’t do all those pieces parts in the right mix, you ultimately fail .

Andy Paul: You said that, that yeah. Salespeople and managers are struggling with, to make sense of all that they’re being asked to do. And you start reading off the list, territory planning, account planning, deal planning, executing a sales process. You had actually 14, 15 if you counted other, but pipeline management, forecasting value creation, etc, etc. Haven’t we always sort of had that responsibility in sales. Why? Why is it increasingly difficult?

Dave Brock: Well, we always have, but I think we’ve, we’ve taken our eye off the ball quite a bit. And we tend to, to get intensely focused in one area and not realize how the pieces and parts are connected and you have to do the whole job. The other thing I think is that we don’t really identify the right leverage points for driving performance. And, and, you know, when you, you know, when you know, all you have is hammer, you know, pretty soon everything looks like a nail. Well, we have a whole set of tools that we have to use kind of, appropriately across everything that we do. And, and again, I think. Too much recently, I’ve seen people lose sight of that and just, you know, focus on one area, then the next area, then the next area, rather than kind of doing the whole job. And again, going back to some of the basic fundamentals of what drives high performance selling.

Andy Paul: Well, do you think that part of the reason we’ve taken the eye off the ball is that there’s sort of this working assumption that I think many in sales have this, that, you know, all these wonderful tools and technology we have actually sort of do the work for you. I mean-

Dave Brock: Yeah, I think that’s a huge amount of it. Wishful thinking or whatever it is is that, you know, we have the promise of the tools. If, you know, if we just had this AI tech capability, is we don’t have to do anything and that the tools, all those sorts of things, or if we had these other kinds of technologies, the tools give us the answers  and yeah, too often, what we do, what I see, and this is probably not politically correct, but I see us dumbing the sales organization down. And not really giving them the capability to do the critical thinking, the problem, solving to engage customers in the way they need to be engaged in whether it’s relying on a technology, relying on the latest fad, in, in, in sales or just copying what everybody else is doing and not doing it very well. I think, you know, I think, you know, again, we have to, yes. Back to kind of, what are the fundamentals of how we engage customers? What are the fundamentals of how we create value? Where should we be spending our time and how do we do it in the most effective ways possible?

Andy Paul: The point being is that that people could be managers, could be sellers are distracted by oftentimes, I believe by, “hey, we’ve, we’ve got the ability to collect all this data. So let’s just focus purely on the metrics,” as opposed to the performance that you’re talking about.

Dave Brock: Right. And it’s, it’s focusing on kind of bright, shiny objects and those kinds of things where, you know, again, you look at it is the fundamentals, you know, when you strip things back to the fundamentals and you start working on those, it’s amazing how quickly you start producing results. And, you know, as we’ve introduced this concept called the sales execution framework, we just, you know, the ability to kind of refocus on what’s important, identify the leverage points.

We find time to results, really stunning. I have one client we worked with, forecast accuracy was a huge issue with them and within six months we’ve moved forecast accuracy from less than 60% to 92%. We’ve moved win rates, you know, from around, this was actually a pretty good company around 40% up to about 70%. And there’s no magic to it. It’s just, it’s just looking at, are we paying attention to how we execute? Are we focusing on doing the right things with the right people at the right time? And do we do that repetitively and systematically?

Andy Paul: So you get a sense from listening to you talk about and reading your, your work on the sales execution framework , and I sort of feel this way from time to time too is that, you know, there’s really nothing new in sales. You talked about people being sort of obsessed with the bright, shiny object, but what’s, you’re talking about are again, fundamentals that have been in existence for, for some time. Yeah, we can go back to the earlier point. Maybe we’re just getting distracted by all the noise and the bright, shiny objects. You still have to do these fundamentals.

Dave Brock: Yeah, it’s the basic principles and the fundamentals are the same, you know, we have maybe different ways of expressing them. We have technology that helps us do some of those things a little bit more efficiently. and all, but, but still is, you know, again, I think, I think we’ve been distracted from executing those fundamentals and, and, and doing them day in and day out.

and so when we talk to people and we’d get them back to those things, again, it’s amazing how quickly you start producing results.

Andy Paul: So here’s a hypothetical for you. Cause I was having this discussion with somebody just this week. And, cause I’d read your, your sales execution framework again. I was sort of thinking about, you’ve got these four cores, which we’re going to get into in a second, but if you’re executing the basics in today’s business environment is could you, as a sales organization produces much.

Without the tools and technologies, if you just focused on the basics as you could what the tools and technology

Dave Brock: I’ll answer that and maybe a little bit different way. I think if you aren’t doing the fundamentals in the basics, well, technology, isn’t going to help you. I mean, the technology will enable you to create crap at the speed of light. Is is, is, you know, so if you, if you’re executing, the foundation is executing the basics.

Well, then you can leverage technology on top of that to help make you more efficient, to be able to do more. But, but it all starts with kind of those foundations and absent those foundations. Again, you create crap at the speed of light. And I think that’s what we’ve seen is people have gotten distracted, I think, from the foundations to the technology, to the, you know, the latest gee whiz kinds of things, whether it’s technology, she, or social selling or social media, or, you know, the latest seminar they went to.

Is that they’ve gotten away from those fundamentals. And we see that in the results. I mean, we see survey after survey year after year, I’m showing declining sales performance and declining sales results.

Andy Paul: So the client that you referenced with you driving the wind rate from forties up to the seventies, what type of business are they in?

Dave Brock: It’s a high technology, the, systems business, hardware, software solutions, that kind of thing that I’m doing it with a very, very multibillion dollar professional services business. And we’re starting to see, you know, we’re starting with a fundamental shift around pipeline quality and pipeline integrity, and then getting them to focus on, you know, trying to figure out what the gaps in the pipeline are and then focus on, on.

You know how we improve win rates on the deals, how we improve average transaction size, you know, we’re now we have an initiative around 20 million to a hundred million dollar opportunities to say, how do we double our win rates on that? And we’re seeing the ways of just, again, it’s not magic, it’s disciplined thinking and problem solving about how we can move the needle in and dramatically increase the win rates on those things.

And, and. Those kinds of deals would really move the needle on performance. And it has nothing to do with tools.

Andy Paul: So a question I was sort of driving to is, so do you think you could, using this framework, that a ccompany could replicate that same success, a Saas company could replicate that same success success? Cause here’s a segment where the win rates, you know, trend around 20%, low twenties, maybe mid-twenties. What would be the key cause they’re so, I think, oftentimes that seems like they are hamstrung by the technology as opposed to being benefited from the technology, is what’s the key in your mind to work with Saas company get their win rate up to 40, 50%.

Dave Brock: Well, I mean, the Saas company is, I mean, they’re selling some sort of solution, some sort of tool. I mean, I think, I think we really misunderstand Saas. I mean, Saas is a technology. it happens to be a cloud-based implementation. Saas is a payment system that’s a monthly subscription thing. Saas has been popularized, as you know, through, Predictable Revenue of, of being a sales methodology, which, which actually is, is a highly transactionalizing the sales process. And where, where that works, where a transactional sales process is the right approach. It’s a very, very powerful approach. What we’re starting to see though, is some very big limitations.

If you think of the grandfather of all kinds of, of the Saas approach, which is salesforce.com is, is they turned the world of selling and buying CRM upside down from rather these large enterprise deployments to looking at individuals in departments and making it more of a transactional fast sale, you know, for, for 150, some odd dollars a seat, I can get a quick all my people and get them using Salesforce tomorrow. And it was a relatively small and low risk kind of, investment. Well now is there, you know, look at trying to say, how do we close 10,000 seats at a time? How do we, how do we close a marketing platform, a sales platform, a service platform, and an analytics platform in a very, very large enterprise. The sales approach needed to sell that kind of solution, even though it’s the same products. It is a very, very different sales approach. And I think what we’ve lost in a lot of sales leadership is that critical thinking to say, what’s the right way to engage these customers? How do we engage them? Not how do we, just because we sell a Saas product, we use this Saas sales technique.A dn you know, we see so many, we get actually so many clients or Saas companies that, you know, my sales approach has broken down. It doesn’t work anymore. Well, you know, the issue is you’re selling to an enterprise. So it’s a complex decision with you know 11 plus decision makers and very confusing buying cycle. And, and, you know, you used to sell it in the transactional process where you were selling to you Andy, to buy a seat or for your, your team to buy a seat. And so that process is very different and you don’t get people thinking about how has that buying process changed. And, and am I aligning my sales process with that buying process?

Andy Paul: which speaks to, I think one of the fundamental issues is that that alignment, as far as I can tell, rarely happens. Is that, you know, you and I both have seen Gartner’s research on the buyer enablement journey of the spaghetti diagrams they talk about with the complex buying process or decision making process of buying process or whatever you want to call it, that buyers go through and yet I see very few companies that have said, well, okay, we’ve got to change the way we sell in order to align with that. Where we’re still, yeah I need a linear stage based process, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What have you seen in terms of companies adapting, how they sell to this, this reality, that Gartner outlines?

Dave Brock: There are far too few doing it. You know, the leading companies, you know what, they’re driven into it by necessity because they’re failing and they need to reinvent themselves, or whether they’re really astute leaders that think that are thoughtful about how they engage their customers and all, but far too few people are doing it.

And again, I think we see that in, you know, declining, overall sales results. And we see the CSO insights, research every year where we see fewer and fewer people making quota. We see, you know, greater, greater turnover in sales leadership and in sales people. So we see all these signs, that say okay we are failing to perform as a profession and we don’t see that many people softly saying, how do I fix this? You know, it seems that, it seems that, you know, I mean, part of it is the incremental cost of another 10,000 phone calls or another 10,000 emails is virtually zero. So our answer to everything is if I’m not making my numbers now, rather than think about why I’m not making my numbers is let me just double them.

Let me just double the number of phone calls I make. Let me just double the number of emails I make. And if that doesn’t work. Then I’ll double it again and so on and so forth. So, you know, rather than sitting back and saying, this isn’t working, why isn’t it working? How do we change to get something that’s much more effective and impactful is largely because of technology. The incremental cost of volumes is virtually zero. So our answer is always to increase volume. I’ve always thought what if we went to, what if every sales person had to pay the price of a first class stamp for every email they sent or what if they had to pay 25 cents for every phone call they made, every dial they made? How would that change our approach? To things like that. I remember, I remember years ago when I was funding, when my mom cutting teams would come to me and say, we want to run this male program and it’s going to cost us this much per piece and so on and so forth. And I’d say, well, Are we really going to get results out of it. And because that was costing us hard money, we went into it more thoughtfuly. It didn’t mean that we were successful, but we became much more thoughtful and much more discriminating. Since technology has made the incremental cost of volume virtually zero. We’ve stopped thinking about those things and our answer to every, performance problem is just do more volume.

Andy Paul: Well, that was really at the heart of the question I’d asked you originally about, you know, could you sell successfully in today’s environment without technology? It was not advocating that you should, but it’s, it’s saying if you had to be extremely thoughtful about how you would attack that problem. Yeah, I suspect you’d find an answer, but, but, it requires a level of thought digress that people seem to be wanting to bypass because there’s an easy way to get more volume as you discussed. So, which is a good segue into talking about your, your framework because your framework is built around your sales execution framework, built around four areas, demand gen, solving our customer’s problem, being in control of our business, and my favorite designing high value meetings. So let’s, let’s talk about those in order. So demand, gen, explain what you mean. I mean, I think we know pretty much, but tell us what you meant in that context.

Dave Brock: Well, demand gen is, is how do we identify and find new opportunities? And we can kind of look at it in a couple of different dimensions, you know, using old fashioned sales terms, it’s, you know, territory management, but it’s account management. You know, basically I think sometimes we overcomplicate account planning. Account planning at its core is a structured prospecting  process.

I remember, you know, in the old days of, of, territory planning, we used to do these things where you look at, you know, what SIC codes are in this territory, you know, and we make sure are we covering the, here, the customers, the SIC codes that are in our sweet spot. Have we identified every one of those or, you know, I remember in the old days, When I used to drive around in the car, we did something called smokestack hunting because I called on manufacturing accounts, you know, and every time I saw a smokestack, I’d go in and prospect there.

So, you know, so there were talking about structured prospecting, approaches that say, who’s our target customer. How do we approach them? How do we engage them? And are we approaching them in a sufficient volume? Well, I don’t know that volume or what sufficient in terms of the volume until I know my sales process and my opportunity management process.

And then until I know kind of my win rates, my average deal size and my, my transaction values, you know? And so now, now, as we start looking at the whole thing is a system, we can start saying, you know, what are the right numbers or where are the leverage points? So I, I posed this example to people.

Imagine two salespeople. They both have exactly the same code. That’s let’s imagine their quotas are $5 million. Both have exactly the same pipeline. let’s imagine their pipelines are $10 million. Salesperson A has a win rate of 40%. Salesperson B has a win rate of 20%. What do you do? So most sales managers say, “Oh, Dave, that’s obvious prospect, more, they need more pipeline.”

And I said, okay, cool, why? You know, and, and they say, well, we need three times pipeline. So they have to build their pipeline from 10 million to 15 million and say, well, why are you choosing three times pipeline? Well, that’s what sales managers always do, is we always have to have three times pipeline.

And I said, well, with salesperson A, you might actually be decreasing their productivity because they only need 12 and a half million dollars in pipeline to make their numbers. They’re pretty good at making their numbers. They only need 12 and a half. And if you’re forcing them to get 15 million, you’re distracting them from the things that caused them to be very, very effective

Andy Paul: Well, yeah, they just don’t have, they don’t have the time to work the accounts the way they should.

Dave Brock: Yes. Exactly. So, so you do that Salesperson B you know, you get three times pipeline, but they need five times pipeline, to make their numbers. So if they get three times pipeline, they still aren’t going to make their numbers. And then you start saying is getting them to prospect the most impactful thing they can do because they suck at selling. And so they’re going to suck even more at prospecting. What if I first started focusing on improving their win rate and that changes their pipeline dynamics. It changes their effectiveness and starts doing something. So what, what happens is we see the sale managers, not really thinking in analyzing performance in the performance flavors, they just come up with these kind of rote answers.

And the answers aren’t serving us. And so we have to dig in deeper and see where are the leverage points? Where are the leverage points with the organization, where the leverage points with each individual and how do we start coaching those individuals to maximize their performance?

Andy Paul: Yeah, and I think the one thing sales managers don’t do enough of is reverse engineer their process. They start at the top and do the math down. As opposed to saying, I want a win rate of this. You they’ll say usually they go, well to win a deal, I need five qualified opportunities. I need 15 leads, so I’m gonna have to have, you know, 45, as opposed to saying, we should be able to have a 40% win rate. So, what does that mean in terms of how we prospect, who we prospect to, and then the rest of the process that builds on top of that? And yeah, I mean, I’ve seen examples of what you talked about, where yeah. Two salespeople, disparate skill sets, and the answer is always more as opposed to, how do I make this person better first?

And then let’s see what we can do.

Dave Brock: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, in our company, we spend a lot of time kind of understanding that and analyzing it. And so we have things like our win rate in our company is somewhere between 82% and 90%. and it’s, it’s not so much because we’re great salespeople, even though we are

Andy Paul: Of

Dave Brock: it’s because, because we’re viciously focused on our sweet spot.

And we don’t waste our time outside that sweet spot. So we know where we have, you know, very, very high win rates. And then, you know, so that changes our pipeline dynamics tremendously. We don’t have to have huge pipelines. We don’t have to be prospecting thousands and thousands of people because our pipeline dynamics, our deal size and so on and so forth are such that we make the most out of it? Yeah. Everything that we do. And so I think it’s, you know, and it’s, you know, our business is helping people do that. So we think a lot about it, but I don’t see as many sales executives doing the same thing with their organizations and identifying the leverage points. Like I mentioned, this client I’m working with right now is we looked at the leverage points and we said their win rates on these very, very large deal sizes is really unsatisfactory and the best the thing we can do to drive performance is figure out how to increase the win rates. You know part of it is, is, you know, are we chasing the right opportunities? Part of it is re-engaging the customer as effectively as possible. And it turns out when you start looking at it, it becomes really easy to start identifying if I do this, I’m going to improve it. If I do this, I’m going to improve it. And you can start systematizing that and, and, and really producing results.

And, and again, this one, you know, we raised the win rate with this particular client. We’re trying to move when rates actually from 20% to 40%, we’re up to about 30% right now with a few just small changes and, and, and improvements in kind of focus.

Andy Paul: Well, and to your point, precisely your account planning, your structured prospecting process. You know, too often now, I guess, is more, you see it more in Saas companies as they fall behind and suddenly managers want pipeline coverage rates to go from three to five, you know, you hear seven, you hear nine and it seemingly never occurrs to the people in charge that they are entering into a vicious cycle from which there’s no exit when they do that. And, and that the math is pretty simple. As your win rate is basically gonna be the reciprocal of your pipeline coverage ratio. And at some point you got to bite the bullet and say, yeah, we’ve got to be more effective to your point at the top in how we do our account planning, our territory planning.

Dave Brock: Or things like, you know, what, if I improve my win rate by, by being better at disqualifying, what if I improve my pipeline dynamics by being better at defending price? So I don’t have to discount as much and I can raise my average deal size and things like that. So, so there are lots of leavers that we can pull to drive sales performance, not just the volume involve philosophy, labor.

Andy Paul: Alright. So we talked to the.

Dave Brock: wAnd that’s what the sales execution framework is all about is, is what are those leaders?

Andy Paul: So the first thing lead gen, we just beat that one up. Second, solving our customer’s problems. Why is that so hard these days?

Dave Brock: Well, the cynical answer is we were interested in what we sell, not the customer’s problems and it’s amazing how simple selling becomes if you start focusing on the customer and their problems and how to do that and how to help them solve the problems. And you’ve seen the Gartner data as well as I have that big.

The problems customers have is less around solution selection, but more about what, what are they trying to achieve in their business? What are their goals? What’s standing in the way of doing that? How do they orchestrate, how do they orchestrate this, this large complex buying process and make sense of that whole thing?

And so it’s and we as salespeople focus on the product selection piece, which is the smallest part of the problem that the customer is solving.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And I agree a hundred percent is, you know, when I serve deconstructed, my success in selling large enterprise deals is a different way of saying it at the time, but it was like, I was focused on trying to say if I could be the seller that helped shape the customer’s vision of how they were going to solve their problem, then when they’d moved them to the next step of trying to choose who they want to solve it with, I was in the driver’s seat

Dave Brock: Yup.

Andy Paul: And this will sound classic IBM selling from decades ago. But this is, I think you’re absolutely right. I think this is a part that is just almost completely absent from so many sellers. Individual sellers as well as managers perspectives is what’s the job I’m really setting out to do here with solving the customer problem. It’s not solving the problem by helping them choose me. It’s solving problem by helping them decide, helping them choose how they’re going to solve their problem.

Dave Brock: Well, and if you’re in there helping them solve their problem, you, I mean, they almost always default to you or you’re in the most favored position because  you’re defining the ball game and the ground rules, and helping them define that. So you’re always doing that in a way that you, you know, I think.

You know, we got to make sure we’re chasing after customers, whose problems we can solve and not wasting our time on customers that aren’t. But once we do that, and then we focus on solving their problems, we’re always in the most favorite position.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I think an analogy for salespeople to keep in mind about this is that. Yeah, they’re focused on the end target, which is getting the order when they should be focused on an intermediate target, which is helping the customer decide how they’re going to solve their problem. And, and I was reading something several years ago about golf, and I’m not a big golfer, but I’ve played occasionally, but pro golfers when they’re lining up their shot – Tiger Woods does this, Jack Nicholas did it – is they not aiming at where they want the ball to land, they’ve picked out an intermediate target, like 10 yards, 15 yards, 20 yards in front of them that they’re really aiming the ball at and if the ball passes over that target it’ll end up eventually where they want it 200, 300 yards down the fairway. And I think that’s really, in my mind, is analogous to what we should be doing in sales, is the intermediate target is the most important one and we don’t have a chance to win the deal if we don’t help the customer make that choice about how they want to solve the problems. Otherwise if it’s not based on necessarily based on somebody else. And we’re just gonna be competing on price, trying to persuade them, not to go with the people, they really think they should go with.

Dave Brock: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and so again, I think part of it is, is we don’t get the purchase order until the customer figures out. This is, this is the problem I want to solve, and this is what I’m going to do to solve it. And if we’re guiding them down that, you know, they start solving their problem and we get the purchase order.

Andy Paul: Yea, but sellers have to think about this in two steps. First step, how are we going to solve this problem? You know, you look at the Gartner spaghetti diagram we talked about before, you know, there’s four jobs that Gartner identified that buyers need to accomplish in their buying process. Identifying a problem, researching solutions, building the specification requirements, choosing a vendor. So three of those four had nothing to do with vendor selection.

Dave Brock: right, right.

Andy Paul: And so when you think about that, and also in that chart, which is huge complex, you know, flow chart, the word sales only shows up once.

Dave Brock: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s funny how that works, but it’s funny how, what we do is we pay attention to that sales piece. We pay attention to that, that, you know, presenting our solution where that’s the smallest part of the customer’s buying process. So we aren’t being as helpful as we could do to them.

Andy Paul: And the reason the sales only shows up once, I believe, is because this is, you know, they were serving buyers and the buyers were reflecting their perception of the value they get from sellers in the main, right. We can do this largely without a seller. They would rather be able to do it with the seller if you can add value to them and help them make a better choice.

Dave Brock: And I think that’s where a lot of people are misreading the data, misreading the literature. It’s not that people don’t want to deal with salespeople. It’s just that salespeople aren’t being as helpful as they can be. So. Customers are forced to look for that help someplace else, whether it’s, you know, peers that they talk to, whether it’s letting their fingers walk through Google and do research and things like that.

But it’s not an aversion to salespeople. It’s it’s, they need help and they need answers and they’re going to go anywhere they can to get those answers. And if it’s a sales person, giving them those answers, they’ll embrace that salesperson and work with them.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. It’s only a version of salespeople who waste their time.

Dave Brock: Exactly.

Andy Paul: Right. Okay. So your third pillar in your sales execution framework was being in control of our business. What did you, what do you mean by that?

Dave Brock: And really that’s saying, you know, what are the dynamics of our business? You look at it from kind of a pipeline management and, and an opportunity management point of view. So an example, a lot, very large organization I’m working with right now, you know, they said, you know, I said, well, tell me, you know, are you in control of your business? Are you going to make your numbers? And how do you know? And they said, Oh, our pipeline looks great. And, and I said, Oh, okay, that’s cool, let’s look at the pipeline. Well, you know, they had, you know, the right coverage on it, but then you start looking at the deals. There were 30% of the deals that had projected closed dates in the past. And I said, I said, is anybody paying attention to these 30% of the deals? You know, they were supposed to close some of them a year and a half ago what’s happened to them. And so, so, I mean, that seems like a silly example-.

Andy Paul: The way managers self fluff up their pipeline is they just don’t let things out of it.

Dave Brock: Yeah, people do these things in, in, so you say, well, you’re really not in control of your business. You don’t know what’s happening. You don’t know whether you’re chasing enough of the right opportunities, high quality opportunities to make your numbers this month, this quarter, this year. And you, I mean, you look at things kind of at a nominal level and say, I have, you know, I have three times coverage in my pipeline, but you don’t look at the quality of that pipeline and the dynamics within it.

You know, this same customer is, you know, one of my favorite, fields within Salesforce is the number of times, the close date changes. I was sitting a couple of years ago with a sales person. He was, had a very, very large deal. And he said, it’s closing at the end of this month. I said, how do you know? And he says, trust me, it’s closing at the end of this month. But I said, well, if I look at the history you’ve been working on this deal for 12 months and you’ve changed the close date, 11 times. Why should I believe? Why should I believe you this time?

Andy Paul: Soon to be 12

Dave Brock: Right, exactly. Exactly. So, you know, there’s this lack of discipline, lack of focus and lack of, you know, you do look at the numbers and say, this stuff doesn’t make sense.

And as a result, these people aren’t in control of the business.

Andy Paul: And it seems what you’re describing though, is that, again not to put the blame on the numbers per se, but we’ve have such an increased focus on numbers that I think, I think part of it is to see this dump, this, this behavior that people are reluctant to let things go. And, you know, they they’re fooling themselves. Right. It’s just a form of self deception. Yeah. I’ve got this huge pipeline, you know, 30% of it’s basically inactive even. Yeah. They haven’t told us no, but if they’re inactive, they told you no. Right. So-

Dave Brock: Yeah.

Andy Paul: You gotta, yeah, I got to learn to lot that go and managers have to, has to start there at the top is have to let this stuff go and bite the bullet if that’s what it takes and then engage in this framework that you’re talking about is, is that yeah, let’s, let’s go back and look at our, our prospect and structured prospecting process. Let’s look and see if we really are in charge, which is, I think it’s one of the hardest steps that for managers to take is they’re afraid to do that.

Dave Brock: It goes even a little bit more deeply. I think we’d look at the numbers. We focus on the numbers, but we don’t understand what the numbers mean. You know, in some sense, the numbers are just a red flag, you know, but, but you know, once I see that red flag I have to get and say, what’s causing this to happen.

And then what do I do about that? And so too much of what I see managers and salespeople doing is they’re just looking at the numbers themselves and not what caused the numbers.

Andy Paul: well, and I think that’s an interesting perspective because when you look at your framework, certainly from that perspective is really what this is, is, you could say a sales execution framework, but it’s really a sales problem solving framework.

Dave Brock: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And it’s it’s, you know, and the other thing too, is it shows that all the pieces, parts of what we do are connected. So what we do in territory development and account development impacts our opportunity strategies and our deal strategies in our sales process, which impacts our pipeline, which impacts our forecast. And all those are and how do we execute those? Those are based on the high quality value, added sales calls and meetings. And so we have to look at all of these things together, and the moment we start isolating them, we start to, you know, missing important pieces of information and important interconnections between these.

Andy Paul: And do you think that the, a lot of this is driven by the fact that, people are sort of so wedded to the process that they, every time they see something, they try to fit it into a niche of something that they’re familiar with, as opposed to saying, well, this is new. How do I analyze this differently than something I’m familiar with?

Right. They get so stuck in their patterns that everything fits into a certain, a certain box. But if this is different? What if it’s not the same? And how do we, how do we address that? It just seems superficial thinking, I guess, as part of the issue

Dave Brock: But I think that’s really an important point. If we keep, you know, if we keep doing the same thing over and over again, and it isn’t working as well as it used to be, we have to start asking ourselves, have things changed is this different. And if they, if things have changed and it’s different, do I need to change and adapt what I’m doing?

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, I, it sort of spring to mind. Cause a couple of days guys listened to a podcast, Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast about, doing an episode about, I always pronounce it wrong.,Causitry? Sort of the Jesuit form of, of deep thinking and problem solving, you know, sort of starts with the taxonomy is, is this like a problem we’ve solved before and a counter for is this different than a problem? AND I rarely see managers take the time to do that type of analysis. And if they did it to your point way back earlier in the conversation, if you’re doing this on a regular basis, You learn more about what you’re doing and perhaps the need to have your five X pipeline coverage goes away. Cause you’re, you’re more gonna be more effective coming up with ways to solve problems earlier on

Dave Brock: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think, I guess it’s attributed to Einstein, but it’s, it’s, you know, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, and to expect a different result.

Andy Paul: Yeah. right now we’re doing a lot of that, but we solve it by doing more of it though.

Dave Brock: Well, and see that’s that’s it is, is, you know, I, what has things, I mean, people think I’m, well, I am weird, but people sometimes think I’m really weird when I go in and I say, let me meet the laziest sales person in your organization. That always makes her number. And, and, you know, because that’s the person that’s broken the code, they’ve figured out how to get more done in less time.

And instead we don’t kind of look at those things and we just keep again, you know, doing the same thing. We’ve always done, it’s producing less and less results. So our answer to that is not to rethink what we’re doing, but just to do more of that, you know, and, and try to produce some better results.

Andy Paul: So I actually had an argument on this show years ago with a guest to wa and your story recalled to mind, she would have fired that sales woman. and I said, wait. So she says, yeah, if you have, if you’ve got. Expectations for something for an organization, you know, you’re gonna have so much activity at certain dimensions and her point was, I wouldn’t care for somebody that’s 130% of quota if they weren’t generating enough proposals, they weren’t making enough calls. It’s like, really? You would fire that person. Instead of saying, instead of analyzing that person saying, what do we can learn from this, this, this person and take it what she’s doing and try to apply it to other people. It was, and it was just symptomatic I think of sort of the blind way that a sales organizations are too often run.

Dave Brock: Yeah. I mean, what’d you do with that lady? Salesperson has just doubled their quota and they’ll figure out how to do it in the shortest amount of time as well.

Andy Paul: Absolutely! I was very fortunate in my career to have managers to give me the freedom to go do that. Cause I didn’t. I didn’t like, I don’t know. I didn’t want to sell, like, most people I got trained with. I was like, yeah, I don’t want to do that. I think there’s a better way to do it. I don’t know if mine was better, but it was better for me worked quite well.

But, you know, unfortunately it shouldn’t try to get me to conform. Otherwise I’d probably be doing something else these days. So, all right, Dave, last point on that was designing high value meetings. And as a support, I love this one because. I for me, I think were the most frustrating thing when I’m dealing with the sales teams and talking to sales leaders, and individual contributors, it’s like, you’re always that sales is a very deliberate business, right? As you have to think deeply about every step, as opposed to just, just go lockstep, follow this process, we got, I’ve got to read my scripts, Dodd, blah, blah, blah. Well, it’s like, no, you gotta, if you’re not in an interaction with a buyer, if they don’t have any value, they’re not receiving any value from that interaction, you’re not going to get another one. Which so often happens. Right. So tell us about this idea that you have about designing the high value meetings and the value of being deliberate in how you sell.

Dave Brock: So the concept around designing high value meetings, there are a couple of principles is one is, is the customer defines value. And, and, and so each, you know, what’s valuable to the customer at this point in time is different from customer to customer is different today and tomorrow. And so if I want to maximize my ability to engage the customer and create a preference for us is, is I’m going to focus on what’s most important and what’s most valuable to them.

And, and, and talk about those things and not talk about the things they don’t care about. Because I’m wasting their time and I’m wasting my time. So that’s number one. Number two is, is, is now you start looking at how do you amp that up and how do you start, creating more results in the meeting. And we started applying some design thinking kind of principles to this.

And so I started thinking the principal. We talked about pre call planning and things like that. So I’m, I’m I do my pre call planning and I’m going to execute something that creates a huge amount of value for the customer. Right. That’s kind of one sided, you know? So we start started thinking what if the customer comes in as prepared for this meeting as we are.

If I’m doing my job as a salesperson in, in I’m preparing for this meeting, I want the customer to have a really killer meeting. I want the customer to be as prepared as I am in that meeting. I’m going to publish an agenda beforehand and agree. You know, we need this information. In order for us to move forward with this, will you be prepared to have that?

Are you going to have the right people there so that we can accomplish these things? So we go into this meeting with a set of common objectives for which we are each prepared. And what happens is we accomplish a lot more with the customer in those meetings. Then if, if we are paired and the customer wasn’t.

and we, the interesting things are, as one is you create more value for the customer. More bias for you. Two is you actually literally cut the number of meetings in half. We saw that in our own company is, is we used to have something like 22 meetings per close. And for us, you know, that meant a lot of times jumping on an airplane, which took a lot of time and a lot of expense.

And, and so what we started doing is we started applying this design thinking to our own meetings and to making sure we were prepared, but also the customer was prepared and we reduced our calls to close from 22 down to nine.

Andy Paul: well, I think an interesting perspective on that is because yeah. Did something very similar is that the value is not. I think if you really look at it, the value is not in, you know, the piece of content you provide or the questions you ask or the insights to provide. I think the value of the customer is that as a result of the meeting, they’ve made progress toward achieving their goal, which is making a decision and.

Dave Brock: it, helping them move forward.

Andy Paul: And that should, that should be the definition of value. In my mind, definition of value for a meeting is as a result of this meeting the customers closer to making a decision than there were before it started. And it requires all things to all things. You talked about pre call planning on your side, pre call planning on the part of the customer or an agreement, not only the agenda, but in exchange for the content, whatever you provided that helped make them smarter about the problem.

There’s a commitment to what next steps are. Hmm. I mean, all of these things, because yeah. Getting that commitment helps the buyer, you know, it helps them say, yeah, we’ve, we’ve got putting a frame around the timeframe for making this decision. and so I think to me, the ultimate definition of value is just progress.

Are we making progress? And we agree that we’ve made progress.

Dave Brock: and customers love salespeople who are doing that because they’re saying you’re helping me make progress. You’re helping me get to the conclusion in a way that I may not know how to do because I’m not. Buying this stuff all the time. I’m not solving these problems all the time. So you’re helping me make progress.

Number one, number two is you’re helping me reduce the amount. I don’t have time. I have to spend on this, you know, rather than, you know, look at the old Gartner spaghetti chart is, you know, I have to go back and forth, back and forth and so on. If I can find a way to, to simplify this and achieve more. In the same amount of time or achieve more in less time, you know, that’s, I mean, think of the value that you create for each person on that.

Andy Paul: well, yeah,

Dave Brock: and, and

Andy Paul: go ahead.

Dave Brock: no, and we’re all time poor and, and the customers get really confused with this stuff. So, you know, designing these high bid. You know, applying again, I think taking the design thinking principles and applying that to how we design and conduct meetings, not how we prepare for meetings, is, is really a game changer.

Andy Paul: right. And I, I am an advocate for, know, creating a standard definition of productivity for sales. And that definition is just the way. Economists talk about productivity it’s rate of output per unit of input. So how many dollars of revenue is a seller generating per hour of actual sales time? And. I had the fortune of managed sales team just with this long time ago.

just given a certain accounting system we had, but you have so much visibility, but to your point about time being the limited, most limiting aspect of it, you want to know what the value is. Each unit of time is. And, and you could take this, I think, to the next step and say, okay, well, if we can figure that out, which is not that hard is then maybe part of the way we compensate sellers is based on their productivity, not on the ultimate output, right?

You can have an expectation from productivity to certain people, is, is the more productive you are. The more you’re generating per unit of time. I’ll pay him. I’ll pay him more. Because that means the Ulta. That means the ultimate productive capacity of my organization is greater.

Dave Brock: Yeah, and I think are different ways. We measure this and so on and so forth and we can tie comp or some other things to it. But, but it is really is how do we accomplish more in a given unit of time? How do we help our customers accomplish more in a given unit of time?

Andy Paul: that’s the key one. Yeah, that to me, the great sellers are the ones that do the latter that you just talked about. Right? They’re the ones

Dave Brock: Yeah.

Andy Paul: know, the description of the, the woman that, that was the top seller that, you know, it’s like the analogous to the analogous, to the basketball player.

That just makes it look too easy. Right. You think they’re not trying, but they’re actually trying and, and scoring a ton of points as yeah.

Dave Brock: And they figured out how to do that in the most effective way possible. you know, and, and, you know, then, you know, I mean, that’s a real win.

Andy Paul: Yeah. For everybody, for everybody seller and, and customer, right. Dave. We’re going to end it there. We’ve gosh, we’ve had a nice, a nice long conversation today as always. So

Dave Brock: we’ve covered a lot.

Andy Paul: So, we’ll make sure we do this again, but why don’t you tell folks how they can find out more about you?

If you’re not subscribing to Dave’s blog, by the way you should. It’s it’s on my, my list. I get it all the time. Can’t wait to read the nuance. Very thought provoking writing about sales. So tell people if they can find out more about you.

Dave Brock: so that’s, that’s partnersinexcellenceblog.com. and it’s, it’s published right now. I’m at about three posts a week. I’m off a little bit. I usually try and do five posts a week. LinkedIn is David Brock. Twitter is at David A. Brock.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And David makes me feel bad because he doesn’t, he writes long posts. I don’t know how he finds the time to do that, but they’re always worth your time. So, Dave, thank you very much. And look forward to talking again soon.

Dave Brock: Thanks, Andy, it’s always such a pleasure.