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Doug Davidoff

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Move Beyond Thought Leadership to Break The Sales Barrier Myth

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 5, 2019 12:00:00 PM

Teaching-Point-of-ViewFor the last decade, selling organizations have been nearly paralyzed because of research from CEB (now Gartner CEB) that highlighted that, due to a variety of factors, buyers were 57% through their journey before they were open to engaging with salespeople.

While sales leaders, reps, and demand generation teams have paid lip service to strategies and tactics designed to address this challenge, the reality is that they have, for all practical purposes, abandoned the early stages of the sales process and pushed harder and harder to the post-intent, high-inclination-to-buy late-journey stage. Demand Generation has become a buzzword as tactics rapidly shift to demand capture. And while demand is high and the economy is red-hot, the cost of this shift isn’t being felt (and in many ways, companies are experiencing positive reinforcement for activities that thrust them further into the commoditization trap).

I have never disputed the virtual revolution in buy-side behavior but, for as long as I’ve been in business, I’ve vigorously argued that the cause of this change was driven primarily because of a lack of value creation generated by sales and marketing in the early phases of a decision or purchase, and not because of some innate desire on the part of buyers to do away with salespeople.

Today, I’m happy to share, that I now have the data to back up my claim. A just-released research report from The Aberdeen Group, Demystifying B2B Purchase Intent Data shows that buyers are not only not avoiding sales reps at the beginning of the buying process - they are desperately looking for professionals who actually create value. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 50% of those involved in B2B purchases say they have incomplete, unclear or poorly defined criteria surrounding the business need they are addressing.
  • 73% of B2B buyers are more willing to speak with a vendor “earlier than usual in the consideration process” if:
    • They can help me define my problems and needs
    • They tell me something I didn’t know about the category of my competitors
    • They provide me with objective information and help me frame my decision
    • They challenge my way of doing business by highlighting a pain point or organizations need we weren’t aware of
  • 33% of B2B buyers will favor a vendor that “shows me a new way of solving an established problem”
  • 66% of B2B buyers say that vendors that have taken such an approach have enabled them to shorten the purchasing/decision/sales cycle

It turns out that one of the major reasons that buyers are doing more on their own is

because of the seller.

The Focus on Thought Leadership May Generate Clicks, But It Doesn’t Influence Buyer Behavior

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Strategy Kills

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 22, 2019 12:00:00 PM

good-strategy-bad-strategyI’m in the midst of reading an excellent book at strategy. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, by Richard Rumelt, should be consumed by any senior executive or advisor who is serious about business growth (h/t to David Cancel, Drift’s CEO for the recommendation). While some people may think a book published in 2011 is “old,” don’t let that scare you away. If anything it demonstrates that the fundamentals of good strategy are timeless.

I have a friend who likes to say that the problem with most strategists is that they don’t know what strategy is. And there is probably no word used more frequently and improperly than strategy. If you bring more than a couple of business executives together to talk about their business, it’s virtually guaranteed that the term will be used more than any other word and that it will mean something different nearly every time it’s used.

In its essence, strategy is all about making choices, and choices are all about making decisions. The word “decide” and the word “homicide” both have the same Latin root and mean the same thing - to kill. When you decide, you “kill” the alternatives.

Strategy, therefore, is all about killing options. It’s about reducing chaos and confusion to increase the focus on fewer, critical elements. And, this is why strategy is so damn hard and so rarely used correctly or effectively. Killing options is hard and scary.

The 3 Most Common Mistakes Made With Strategy

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5 Pieces of an Effective Conversational Marketing Strategy

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 8, 2019 7:09:12 PM

Conversational-MarketingConversational Marketing is a hot topic today. Whether you’re in a book store,  in Times Square, following a bunch of marketers in a Twitter feed, or discussing with forward-leaning demand generation teams about where they’re focused today, conversational is sure to come up early.

I will freely admit that I’m still a bit cynical about whether “conversational” is truly an emerging strategy or just another buzzword designed to make something simple and natural seem complex and difficult so the companies spreading the message can more easily sell their products and/or services (see branding).

I am increasingly being won over that conversation is a worthy topic of focus for growth-focused executives. I believe this for 3 reasons:

  • Demand generation, sales, and marketing are losing their plot and seem to be forgetting their fundamental purpose

  • Buyers continue to change their expectations and desires, and sellers must keep up and create alignment with the buyer

  • The growing focus and capabilities of technology seem to be having the unintended effect of disconnecting

To be clear, (capital C) Conversational Marketing must be viewed through a larger context than “chat,” chat applications, and chatbots. It must be viewed through the holistic prism of corporate strategy. Simply put, the time has come for your company to become a Conversational Company.

This blog post is focused on the key elements necessary to develop and execute such a strategy. It is not focused on the tactical/execution elements. If you’re looking for a great guide to implementing some of the tactics of around Conversational Marketing, I encourage you to download the resource that Drift just released designing The Conversational Blueprint. It’s a great resource and thinking document to guide how you approach conversations in your DemandGen process.

Serendipitously, as I began writing this post, Mark Kilens, Drift’s VP of Content & Community (and before that the leader of HubSpot Academy) tweeted this about conversations:

Conversational marketing The job of a Conversational Strategy is to design and execute the structure to generate “friendly games of catch” purposefully, predictably and repeatably.

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Topics: Demand Generation, Content, Strategic Planning

The 3 Biggest (& Most Common) Mistakes Made With AI

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 1, 2019 12:02:00 PM

AI in MarketingFOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

It was Bill Gates who said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” Nowhere is the outlook more on display that when it comes to the topic of artificial intelligence (AI).

Make no mistake, technology in general and AI specifically are having a major impact on the work growth-focused organizations are taking. AI is absolutely something you should be aware of, and, to some degree, keeping track of. It is not, however, something that should be at the top of any small or mid-market growth company executives attention or worry list.

What Is Artificial Intelligence

Part of the difficulty with addressing AI is that it often means a bunch of different things to different people. What’s more, the term AI is often used to infer things that are not necessarily in place. AI is very confusing to many, so I turned to my friends at HubSpot, who published a nice piece on important definitions surrounding AI. Here are some of the key terms:

Artificial Intelligence: In the most general of terms, artificial intelligence refers to an area of computer science that makes machines do things that would require intelligence if done by a human.

Machine Learning: In short, machine learning is the ability of a program to absorb huge amounts of data and create predictive algorithms.

If you’ve ever heard that AI allows computers to learn over time, you were likely learning about machine learning. Programs with machine learning discover patterns in data sets that help them achieve a goal. As they analyze more data, they adjust their behavior to reach their goal more efficiently.

Deep Learning: On the far end of the AI spectrum, deep learning is a highly advanced subset of machine learning. Deep learning can find super-complex patterns in data sets by using multiple layers of correlations. In the simplest of terms, it does this by mimicking the way neurons are layered in your own brain. That’s why computer scientists refer to this type of machine learning as a “neural network.”

Natural Language Processing: Natural language processing (NLP) can make bots a bit more sophisticated by enabling them to understand text or voice commands. On a basic level, spell check in a Word document or translation services on Google are both examples of NLS. More advanced applications of NLS can learn to pick up on humor or emotion.

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Topics: Lead Nurturing, Marketing, Strategic Planning

The Accountability Game: Creating Clarity & Alignment In Your Business

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 20, 2019 12:00:00 PM

Clarity and Alignment in BusinessI regularly write about a variety of growth-focused strategies, systems, and skills. Yet, while these areas are certainly important, the biggest determinant of success is an organization’s ability to execute. Give me average strategies, systems, and skills with dogged execution and I’ll beat anyone with average execution.

If I could use one predictor to determine how well a company executes, I would very quickly choose accountability. I’ve learned that accountability is a fascinating core component of a company’s culture. While everyone seems to like talking about accountability (and they love to hold others accountable), very few create an effective culture of accountability.

3 Reasons Accountability Efforts Fail

The definition of accountability is quite simple. It means to hold yourself out to account for something. There’s a dramatic Lake Wobegon effect with accountability. While we know accountability is a problem in most organizations, I can’t ever recall a time where someone willingly admitted, “Hey, I’m not accountable here.”

There’s a tremendous amount of effort exerted to create accountability, but few organizations seem to pull it off effectively over an extended period of time. In my experience there are three primary reasons that accountability fails to take hold:

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Topics: Performance

5 Popular Sales Metrics That Destroy Sales Performance

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 8, 2019 4:00:00 PM

Sales MetricsEditor's Note: This post originally appeared on the HubSpot Sales Blog

In 1997, Billy Beane became the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. The A’s had the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball and in the four full seasons before Beane became GM, the A’s averaged less than 70 wins a season. Beane knew if he was going to build a contending team, he would not be able to do it the traditional way.Beane’s strategy -- as depicted in the 2011 film, “Moneyball” -- has traversed beyond the world of baseball to nearly all sectors of business and has become synonymous with making data-driven decisions.The tenet Beane and the A’s followed enabling them to average more than 93 wins per year for the following eight years had two components:

  • Discard highly valued “vanity” metrics that did not have a significant impact on winning baseball games.

  • Identify different metrics -- preferably those no one else was paying attention to but which had a significant impact on winning baseball games.

If Billy Beane were to take over a sales organization today, he would feel like he’d traveled back by about 20 years.Sales organizations today are dominated by metrics, but they’re rarely data-driven and even take actions counterproductive to the outcomes they desire. This results in higher costs, burnt out reps, high turnover, and frustrated customers.When noted economist Steven Levitt published the book “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything,” he shared the disproportionate impact structural incentives have on the behavior of individuals and their output.Structural incentives are those created by the structure of what’s being done. They are often referred to as the law of unexpected consequences and are generally more powerful than explicitly stated incentives.Structural incentives are also one of the primary causes of difficulty in change management. In sales, the most common structural incentives are the metrics used to assess performance -- whether tied to compensation or not.

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Topics: Sales Development, Performance, Sales Cycle, Sales

Just Say No To Shitty Emails: 5 Tips To Revitalize Your Emails

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jan 25, 2019 11:00:00 AM

jsn-emailsWelcome to the first in our series of Just Say No to Shitty Sales & Marketing videos. Today, we're tackling shitty emails. There's probably no tactic that creates more anxiety among marketers, salespeople, and sales executives alike than the topic of email.

Email is a critical linchpin to managing relationships. If we don't have access to our target prospects’ or leads’ inbox, then we're going to be at a significant disadvantage to be able to connect, influence, or generate any type of action. We have to remember that email is a push communication tactic in a pull communication world. We can't do email the way we've always done it.

We have to realize how our target prospects and leads engage with email. How do they manage things so that we can position ourselves to be successful with our email communications?

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Topics: Content, Strategic Planning, Email, Just Say No To Shitty Sales & Marketing

5 Necessary Elements for a Successful Account-Based Marketing Approach

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jan 18, 2019 4:01:00 PM

5 Elements of Account Based MarketingOne of my favorite things from 2018 was the opportunity to join Ryan McInerney’s podcast to discuss the pros, cons, and myths surrounding Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Ryan also hosted Sangram Vajre, the founder and CEO of one of the very first ABM applications, Terminus. The conversation was so engaging that one episode quickly turned into two. (You can listen to episode one here and episode two here.)

There’s no question ABM is still hot. The good news is that, as account-based approaches have matured and technology has evolved, the opportunity to implement effective account-based programs is better than it has ever been.

But, realize that merely saying that you’re adopting such an approach does not change anything. If you’re changing your strategy, you must change your behaviors.

In our work with companies implementing or embarking with ABM, we’ve identified five overlooked or weak elements that are often the cause of failure. If you’re considering implementing such an approach, be sure you address these items.

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Topics: Sales Development, Marketing, Sales

The Missing Persona That’s Damaging Your Sales & Crushing Your Margins

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jan 11, 2019 3:00:00 PM

BuyerPersonaA client of ours, who provides a uniquely designed sales performance improvement program design for a unique niche, was involved in a large, complex sale with a major company in their market. Traditional sales theory would lead to a focus on one of two roles/personas at the company:

  • The executive in charge of sales revenue, or

  • The executive in charge of training.

My client won the sale, and in the debrief we confirmed something very few people would have expected. While the client did a yeoman’s job selling to the typical roles, it was the head of technology (CTO) who was the key player that led the company to not only buy from my company, but to do so without decreasing the scope or paying less than my client proposed. It was also the CTO that prevented the head of training from “checking with outside vendors” to see if they could do the “same thing for less.”

The CTO had no formal role regarding the sales approach or training programs that were implemented by this company. Yet, because of the insights and knowledge that my client developed regarding this company, the CTO was engaged from the beginning. Looking back, it’s likely the smartest decision that was made during the several months of the sales process.

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Topics: Lead Nurturing, Sales Cycle, Sales

5 Strategies to Increase Sales Rep Productivity By a Third (or More)

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Jan 2, 2019 9:00:00 AM

accelerationThis post originally appeared on HubSpot's Sales Blog.

For more than 30 years (yikes!), I’ve been directly involved in selling, managing, and leading salespeople, and providing advisory services to sales organizations. There are two trends that have persisted:

  • The increased prominence and investment in sales technology and sales force automation
  • The consistent decrease in sales rep productivity, or the time salespeople actually spend selling

Recent research from The Aberdeen Group and Docurated indicate good salespeople today spend less than a third of their time selling, while increasingly more time is spent managing various administrative tasks surrounding sales and demand generation.

Whether you’re a salesperson, sales executive or other investor or stakeholder in a growing organization, I’m certain I don’t need to tell you the direct and collateral damage done when salespeople aren’t selling.

Before sharing the key to increasing sales productivity, let’s look at the three root causes for the problem sales organizations have dealt with for decades:

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