The Cows Decide When It’s Milking Time 0

In a recent NY Times article, With Farm Robotics, the Cows Decide When It’s Milking Time, they discuss the attributes of a new technology that through robots and transponders cows get individualized services. The collection of data includes:

The robots also monitor the amount and quality of milk produced, the frequency of visits to the machine, how much each cow has eaten, and even the number of steps each cow has taken per day, which can indicate when she is in heat.

This is not to unlike a good Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). CRM systems should not be used to better manipulate a customer down our pre-determined path of engagement, rather be used to make better customer experiences and enable the customer an easier path for engagement. Leave them decide the milking time. When we do this as the article says:

But farmers said output generally increased with robots because most cows like being milked more often. (To allow lactation, cows are kept in a near-constant state of impregnation.)

As we create better workflows, we not only make it easy for the customer but for our staff to service the customer. Again from the article:

The machines have mellowed both the cows and much of the routine on the Bordens’ farm — though the humans have received the occasional distress call from their mechanized milkers.

Even though these are solid lessons to be learned the most important takeaway that I had from article was how automation can give me a better view of the customer experience. Real-time information with actionable data sets, instead of looking at what happens in the past is the treasure trove of Big Data. This thought was driven by the comment:

The view is improved, as well. “Most milking parlors, you see, you really only see the back end of the cow,” Mr. Borden’s father, Tom, said. “I don’t see that as building up much of a relationship.”

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The Beautifulness of Chaos in Sales 1

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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The Challenger & Customer Experience 0

Matt Dixon, an executive director of strategic research at CEB, has an unrelenting drive to find the answers to questions senior executives often take for granted. Matt’s latest books are The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty and The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.

Related Transcription and Podcasts: Dixon on The Challenger & Customer Experience

Joe: When I try to explain the challenger approach to someone, I say it’s the salesman or the sales team that’s going to meet with the customer and are going to do new math. Instead of one plus one equal to two, they want to make one plus one equal to three. Is that a good way to explain it?

Matt Dixon’s response:

It is. Since the book’s come out, I’ve heard so many people tell the story just like you are in their own words, and it’s always exciting to hear people kind of put it in their own terms. I think that’s definitely a way you can put it. Just the other day I was talking to the head of sales and said the challenger for this person, for this guy, the head of sales at this pretty large company, global company. He said, “When I think of my challenger salespeople, these are the people who go in, and they make the customer blink.” They bring that new idea to the table. They bring a new way to save money or to make money, or to avoid risk or to steal market share or to engage employees.

Whatever the outcome is that you are promising to deliver for the customer they bring a new way to get there, the new idea for getting there and accomplishing that objective, and they put it on the table. It’s often an idea the customer themselves hadn’t thought of before, and it makes them blink and it makes them do a double take. Surprisingly, they actually generate some pretty skeptical reaction from that customer. The customer says, “Hey, I don’t know about that. That’s a pretty bold claim or I don’t know if that’s going to work here what you just laid on the table. I’m not sure. I think we’re a little bit different.”

The challenger is able to hold their ground, drive forward and use that idea as a wedge to open up new terrain and surface new area in conversation. I do like your description though, and I’ll file it away for later use and maybe pay you royalties on the description later.

Related Transcription and Podcasts: Dixon on The Challenger & Customer Experience

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Lean Sales and Marketing Engagemnt 0

This is a presentation based on a full day workshop on developing a Lean Sales and Marketing Engagement. I view sales and marketing from a standpoint that it can no longer operate in a vacuum. It has become as much as an input as an output and intertwines across many of the departments within the organization. Your companies have become flat and your decision making is increasingly being done by committee. Your customers are doing the same thing. As a supplier, you must mimic your customer decision-making path and as a result your sales and marketing will also be done by committee.

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The New Sales Conversation: Connect, Collaborate, Close 1

Linda RichardsonLinda Richardson new book,Changing the Sales Conversation: Connect, Collaborate, and Close is one of the few sales books that I have read that puts an emphasis from a Service Dominant Perspective (SD-Logic) versus selling from a Good Dominant Logic (GD-Logic) position. It is the new sales conversation that had to happen.

Linda is the Founder and Executive Chairwoman of Richardson, a global sales training business. As a recognized leader in the industry, she has won the coveted Stevie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sales Excellence for 2006 and in 2007 she was identified by Training Industry, Inc. as one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals.”

Linda is credited with the movement to Consultative Selling, captured in the book Perfect Selling, which is the cornerstone of Richardson’s methodology. Other innovations Linda has spearheaded in the sales training industry are: development of a comprehensive, integrated curriculum dedicated exclusively to sales, commitment to customization vs. generic training, and development of an interactive coaching-type training methodology.

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Why Sales Should Never be a Process 4

Processes are good, right? They capture what we do well, and allow average people to do better. The argument may be that they prevent exceptional people from being exceptional but we are looking to be an exceptional organization.

There are few disciplines that has seen more failed efforts to create a process than the sales arena. Most process creators blame it on that undisciplined sales crowd that just doesn’t know what is good for them. In fact, most process (Lean, Six Sigma) practitioners are firm believers that all we have to do is create a value stream map or process map for sales and it would create a more effective and efficient sales process. Worse, we sometimes think we can define the role so well that we attempt to be outright manipulative of our customers. Read my blog post, Value Stream Mapping  Should be Left on The Shop Floor.

Speaking of failed attempts I have had my share of them. I am a process guy through and through and have tried more different types of processes and maps than you could ever imagine. So much that often I feel like I am talking about process more than what is important, sales. There is a reason that we do this, when we talk about processes it frees us from responsibility of mastering complexity of sales and allows us to simplify. We follow this process; improve on it and as a result sales get better. Or, so we think. Process coordinators would certainly justify this but can a sales and marketing person tell me they have seen a direct correlation between creating an efficient process and as a result, more sales?


The problem is that sales is more than a process. Sales is a system of interactions, different forms of communications, finding influencers, and events that are all part of a continuously changing ecosystem per se. When we limit ourselves to a certain process, we are limiting what makes our sales effective.

There are several ways sales interacts. We sometimes take an authority role such as expert in the area. Another time we may have to take a coaching role or an evaluative role or even a supportive role. As a result, each role can hardly fit one process and, therefore, every time we define a process we limit the role sales can play.

Sales is complex, and there is no one or no simple approach that always works. Sales may take on several different roles during a sales cycle and needs skills such as engagement, creativity, strategic thinking, patience, reassurance, cheerleading and a host of others. If we shoehorn our sales people fitting them into the process, we understate the complexity and value of what we can and should bring to our sales people.

Thought Provoker for this post: Beyond Neutrality: Confronting the Crisis in Conflict Resolution

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Ashton’s Sales Psychology 0

Leigh Ashton is the author of iSell and head of The Sales Consultancy. She specializes in helping people incorporate psychology alongside technical selling skills – leading to positive changes to their attitude, their approach and their sales results. Leigh works with business owners, directors, managers and sales teams to identify and eliminate their psychological barriers, their internal limiting beliefs…and the reasons or excuses they use to rationalize their lack of consistently great sales.

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Leigh Ashton

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Related Podcast: The Psychology of Selling

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