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The Beautifulness of Chaos in Sales 0

One of my pet-peeves is this process thinking mentality that we can apply a tool like value-stream mapping and create a more efficient sales process, by getting rid of unnecessary steps and action. People are always looking for a template that they can follow and ZaZoom, sales increases. Though there is some truth that we can increase efficiencies by mapping some defined process, I hardly think that is really what we desire in our sales process.

Sales is an inefficient process. Always has been and always will be.  As Dan Pink explains, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, so why don’t we leave it be that way. Humans are not wired to interact in a linear fashion. We are even finding out that though hierarchy needs to exist in organizations that there is another component that also needs to exist. A more chaotic component.

Our organizations need hierarchy structure to get things done. It is an efficient way to disseminate the work and make decisions. However, in many sales opportunities we are put in the position that we must extend beyond features and benefits. Excuse the redundancy, but sales must be the ones to create opportunities (Think Challenger Sale: Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers).

Some sales opportunities can use a step by step process. It requires a market that operates in a very similar way across a wide spectrum and has a defined collection of information. You can organize information with little interpretation and pass it on to your sales people to manage and benefit from this “perfect data”. I apologize for my limited viewpoint, but I am having trouble finding markets like that anymore.

Our information and data are anything but linear, it is all being interpreted. Reality demands that we cut across boundaries and make things happen. Agility and speed of acting on this information is imperative. To get things done we short-circuit that hierarchy and use our existing tribal knowledge. When doing that we organize and operate in clusters not hierarchies.

Does this mean chaos exist with sales people? Not at all, it means that though we have a streamline efficient process for sales, we also blend in that chaotic structure as an underlying process that can be organized and defined within our sales unit. It should not be seen as something that is wrong and penalized for not following the process. Rather it should be governed by our understanding of how to develop new opportunities and the reaction to them.

These chaotic structures should be seen as clusters creating collaborative atmosphere. This seldom insures the best answer gets enacted. However, it does insure a better possibility that something does get enacted. It takes away that paralysis from trying to force fit our product/service. No longer are we trying to gather buy-in to get something accomplished, but rather change is being driven from a sense of joint accountability. The best action taken becomes the best implementable action. It is a different way of enacting change. It is a different way of working with a customer. Could it work for you?

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From Startup Entrepreneur to Storyteller 0

Making the transition from startup entrepreneur and storyteller, today John Gray is a full time freelance writer. John GrayHe enjoys sharing stories about startups, entrepreneurs, and emerging technology. It’s all about exploring the intersection of our human experience with technology. He’s a regular contributor to BetaKit and can be found on twitter at grayspective.


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Are Your Personas Flawed? 0

You validate with the marketplace all those User Personas or Buyer Personas that you create. There is a lot of science to them backed up by hard data when it is required. In fact, they are one of the hottest design topics around and one of the FIRST things we create. Sometimes right after or right before that customer journey map we create. User Persona

I have always challenged people in workshops to create their own persona and their own journey of incoming and outgoing workflows. It is a challenge for most to get very far removed from themselves. At the furthest point, I then ask them to create a persona of that person. If that person happens to be in the same room, we compare.

The idea of a persona is where we get the icon for drama, the two masks of comedy and tragedy. In theatre, the older mask were leather and shaped into magnificent forms, but on the inside the masks conform to the actor’s face. So on the inside, you have the actors face and on the outside the shape of the character.

Our personas are commonly created the same way. They conform to our inside thinking. We will have a workshop placing post-it-notes on the wall creating these personas. We come to an agreement and start with the next exercise, often never returning to validate the information. This exercise is a brainstorming exercise, not a user persona.

Others will create the material with some data they have collected and validate the information through customer surveys or interviews and other quantitative or qualitative data. These personas are more accurate but still flawed. It is hard to separate yourself from your mask.

Your perspective creates the way you see the world. When you are creating a persona you are taking events and people opinions that are heavily influenced by your culture and surroundings. Can you ever be objective with a persona? How many times when you have uncovered something uncomfortable is it justified as an exception?

That persona that you created about a co-worker above, how close was it to the actual truth? The truth is what you imagine for others is very different from actual experience.

Creating personas is a tough exercise, a few tips:

  1. Go to the actual place that value is created, the point of use.
  2. Observing, and/or interviewing with multiple people from multiple disciplines.
  3. Have people record audio and/or video of what they saw.
  4. Create stories about the interaction
  5. Have real users/customers critique your persona
  6. Use outside sources to collect part of the data and perform any of the steps above.
  7. Induce failure of the product/service and observe reaction
  8. Believe what others say.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive by any means. What other ideas are there for creating good personas? Creating separation from the internal mask?

Iterative Approach to Book Writing 0

Should you make little stories into larger chapters? How iterative is someone’s approach? I posed these questions to Peter Sims, author of the book, "Little Bets." In the book, Peter discusses through stories the power of iterative cycles. 

Related Podcast and Transcription: Iterative Cycles Viewed as Little Bets

Peter Sims: Well, I wanted it to be a great book. I wanted it to be a book that was extremely well researched. So what you see is at the top of an iceberg. The starting point is… I think of it as an iceberg because the story that I share, or the story you read in the book is just at the top of a lot of research. Basically, both primary research in these 200 interviews where we’re looking for very — I worked with a research team at Stanford — we’re looking for patterns across how all these people work and think, so that we can boil that down into key insights and methods that each chapter is built around.

But then it’s also on top of all the innovation and creativity and psychology, neuroscience research that we could find that was relevant to this topic, as well. For example, there’s this belief that you can be more able to go through setbacks and failures if you change your mindset.

Well, we scoured the psychology research to understand, "Well, what does that mean exactly? How does somebody become more comfortable putting themselves out there night after night like Chris Rock does?" It turns out there’s this cutting edge research that has been developed by Dr. Carol Dweck who is a professor at Stanford. She talks about how people can develop what she calls a "growth mindset." That is the sense that intelligence or ability can be grown through effort over time.

We found that to be a pattern that we saw in the innovators whether it was Frank Gehry or Chris Rock or Jeff Bezos; they all had a growth mindset. Then when we looked at Dweck’s research and all the research she was building on, the consensus was that this is extremely tight research.

Therefore, we said, "OK. Let’s put a chapter in the book on this idea of how one can develop a growth mindset." So it applies to anyone. You just need to, as Dweck says, you need to be able to put yourself out there, though, in order to become more comfortable with setbacks and failure and basically it just gets easier and easier over time, as you see from your experience, as you’re able to grow through putting more effort into whatever you’re doing.

Whether it’s Lean or just developing ideas with rough prototypes, it’s just over time the research shows that you can develop a much stronger growth mindset. So that becomes a chapter in the book. That’s just one example.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Iterative Cycles Viewed as Little Bets

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A Learning Platform for Design Thinking 0

Dr. Charles Burnette has been a frequent speaker in European design schools and at the European Union’s Cumulus Program on Design Education and is widely published on topics such as design management, design systems, ecological design and design education. He is now writing a book about the design model, its foundations in cognitive science and its application.

The seven principles of Dr. Charles Burnette’s IDeSiGN:

  1. I is for intending
  2. D is for Defining
  3. e is for Exploring
  4. S is for Suggesting
  5. i is for Innovating
  6. G is for Goal getting
  7. N is for kNowing

Related Podcast and Transcription: Design Thinking Course

Dr. Charles Burnette on The iDesign model

You can explain it in as complicated a way as needed, or as simple a way as needed. The first part of the model is intentional thinking. What it is, what’s your goal? What are you concerned about? What do you want to do?

The next part of the model involves referential thinking. What kind of resources? How do you describe them? How do you define them? How do you find them? You really are looking for the things that might help you reach your goal. If your goal is to make something that won’t show stains, then it depends on what the problem is, but it runs all over the place. Stainless steel is a resource for some things, and so forth.

The third part of the model is analogical thinking. It’s associate thinking. It’s centered all the things that brings ideas out as networks and is expressed in networks or linkages between one thing, and another, and that’s called relational thinking in the model.

There are seven parts, and I’ll tell you why in a minute but the fourth one is formative thinking which is how you express your thoughts and how you express your proposals and the conclusions that you think you’ll reach, how you project the word to the audience, how you use the media that are available to you. I mean; language is one medium, but so it television and what have you. You have to represent your ideas for the medium and the audience, of the user that you’re addressing.

Then there is procedural thinking, a kind of time sequence. What do I do next? How can I be a better craftsman? How can I reach a state of flow where I’m doing everything at the best of my ability and being challenged all the time?

After that, there is evaluative thinking, where you’re constantly judging what you’ve done with respect to your intentions and the situation that you’re in. Evaluating what you achieved and going with it that way.

Then the final one, the seventh one is reflective thinking where you commit your prior thoughts to memory, you edit them, or you assimilate them into what you already know. When you come around again to a new situation which always occurs in the formative thought, your perceptions then you use reflective thinking to call on what you know to interpret what you’re experiencing.

That starts the whole process and usually if you want to keep on going with that train of thought once you have interpreted your situation from reflective thought, and nothing is wrong. You understand it because you’re there, and then there’s no real stimulus for intentional thinking because you already have the knowledge that you need.

But if you went into a slight need or desire of any type, then that’ll kick intentional thinking and the process starts going again. I don’t know if I gave you a model of the kinds of thinking, but also a bit of a clue about how they work together or get started and kick one another off.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Design Thinking Course

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Participation is the Platform 0

I ended my last blog post, What Happened to My Linear World, with the statement…

Reality was that the world had more influence on what I was doing, and I had less control. My planning became more frequent and less conclusive; I discovered I was no longer living in a linear world.

What should I do?

Is the answer to do less planning and more reacting? Today’s world has emerged with new thinking to compensate. Some of this thinking have been captured in the philosophies of the Outcome Based-Innovation, Design Thinking and Service Design. To a lesser degree Lean, the Maker Movement and the Lean StartupTM support this new thinking. These philosophies have taken the pulse of the present and moved decision making towards a customer-centered approach. They are more aligned with the customer and realize that their success does not rely on pushing product to a customer. Rather, understanding the customer’s “Job-To-Be-Done” and participating in what the customer needs to accomplish. This participation is the platform.

There are a lot of tools this has surfaced. Technology has greatly assisted this movement most notably with the ability to perform prototypes both online and offline. The digital world has led because of the ease of making changes based on the collection of data. However, the offline world is catching up with 3D printing and augmented reality schemes tumbling in price and expanding in use. Again, this supports participation within the platform.

The question really becomes do we still plan? With prototypes and trials so easy to use and inexpensive do we just throw out the planning and look for a reaction from the customer. Many see that as an alternative and segment out the early adaptors and willing participants. Other take it a step further and will try different trials or multiple segments to determine the best type of participation.

Escape from loop

A new set of tools have evolved to support this culture, no longer are we using linear tools that were used to measure and support well-defined end to end processes. Today’s world has introduced more and more uncertainty. As a result, it has forced us to get closer and closer to our customers reducing reaction and decision time. To do this, once again a new set of tools need to be utilized. This methodology has been introduced to us through the concepts of Design Thinking and as good as an overview that I have found is contained in the book, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers (Columbia Business School Publishing)clip_image001.

This set of tools:

  1. Visualization: using imagery to envision possible future conditions
  2. Journey Mapping: assessing the existing experience through the customer’s eyes
  3. Value Chain Analysis: assessing the current value chain that supports the customer’s journey
  4. Mind Mapping: generating insights from exploration activities and using those to create design criteria
  5. Brainstorming: generating new alternatives to the existing business model
  6. Concept Development: assembling innovative elements into a coherent alternative solution that can be explored and evaluated
  7. Assumption Testing: isolating and testing the key assumptions that will drive success or failure of a concept
  8. Rapid Prototyping: expressing a new concept in a tangible form for exploration, testing, and refinement
  9. Customer Co-Creation: enrolling customers to participate in creating the solution that best meets their needs
  10. Learning Launch: creating an affordable experiment that lets customers experience the new solution over an extended period of time, so you can test key assumptions with market data

Along with these basic tools, I believe that Osterwalder’s Business Model Generationclip_image001[1] Template, Lean 3P, and Kanban are other integral parts. If you notice, these are all very visual tools based on participation in the platform, not in the corner office.

However, do I just use these tools and watch everything unfold?

Is there a planning instrument that works?

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What Happened to My Linear World 1

I grew up in the manufacturing world. I think I might have learned how to weld before I learned how to walk. I ended up putting myself through college along with help from the G.I. bill as a welder and later moved into industrial drafting. I even built process equipment. I loved process mapping; value stream mapping and flow diagrams. I eventually moved into the sales and marketing area and fell in love once again with sales funnels, marketing funnels, customer journey mapping and later workflows. I was a process guy through and through.

Reinforcing all this, I think I purchase the first version of Microsoft Project. Not sure it was the first, but it came on (2) 5¼” floppy discs. My projects were always lined up on a Gantt charts. These projects were well defined, well scoped, and we delivered on time, on budget and at high quality.

Linear Thinking

I was first introduced to Lean through Peter Senge and The Fifth Discipline but for the life of me could not understand what Senge was thinking with all those loops. I eventually move into Six Sigma, later Lean Six Sigma and later Lean. I was still primarily a process thinker, but those loops still bothered me.

As time moved forward, I saw the world changing around me. Those end to end linear processes that I understood so well and could map out have started getting shorter and shorter. I started justifying doing the work using the analogy that it was the planning that was important more so than the plan itself. However, reality was that the world had more influence on what I was doing, and I had less control. My planning became more frequent and less conclusive, I discovered I was no longer living in a linear world.

What should I do?

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