Automating Stupidity


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I have a very good friend, Dr. Howard Dover.  He does wickedly smart things in driving the sales curriculum at UT Dallas.  Every once in a while, I get terribly frustrated and need to vent  and Howard lets me vent.

I was venting on the mindless focus on activity.  Activity for activity sake, with no concern about the results these activities create–the goal has become activity.  I read an article, “Can your sales people complete 120K activities a year?”  There was some data that normal sales people are a fraction of that.   These articles somehow only seem to talk about activity, never results.  I suppose if I were measured and compensated on activity, I’d be all over this.  But somehow, outcomes and results have always seemed important to me–both outcomes I help my customers create and those I create for my company.

But it seems the volume/velocity movement is exciting.  I suppose it is, because it’s absolutely mindless.  I start to think how I game this.

“Hmm, 120K activities a year.  That works out to be about 1 activity a minute, unless you have to pee, eat lunch, take a break or do anything else……  But, I can beat that.  Let’s see, a mailing list of over 100K, an email a day….who cares about the content.  In a week, I’ve completed 500K activities.  Multiply that by 50 weeks, that’s 25M a year!  Somehow 120K seems like under performance.  Then I can get a power-dialler and start calling those people.  After all, we know we are suppose to leverage multiple channels simultaneously……”

You can see where I am going, you can see the mindless logic that accompanies too much of the volume/velocity/activity focus.  Yet it’s easy to do and you don’t have to think.

As one digs deeper into some of this, one starts to discover an unintended consequence of this mindlessness.

We are training our targets not to respond!

Open rates on emails are plummeting–enough so that many pundits claim email is a waste of time.  Mindless email is, well crafted emails are high impact (more later).

I’m seeing research showing the number of dials to get a single pick up is skyrocketing.  Personally, I have been trained to never pick up on a number I don’t recognize.  Particularly those that begin with +1-949-305 or +1-949-887  (Yeah, I’m not worried about publicizing those, I won’t pick up.).

But there seems to be no end to this stupid volume, velocity, activity thinking.  As response rates and pick ups , plummet, we mindlessly do the math and ratchet up the volumes, rather than taking the time to think, “Why isn’t this working?”

And there are plenty of tools enabling you to automate this stupidity.  (Regular readers will recognize this is analogous to another phrase I use, “Creating crap at the speed of light.”)

By contrast, yesterday I sat with a very high performing sales team.  We were talking about prospecting.  The top performer was sharing his approach.  Summarized:

  1. He is viciously focused.  He’s refined is ICP and the personas tremendously.  He know the organizations and people he can create the greatest value for, and doesn’t waste his time on those that aren’t a fit.
  2. He spend 60-90 minutes on each target, crafting a personalized telephone and email approach for each individual.  Notice,  I didn’t say each persona, I said individual.  He does the research on what that individual is most likely to respond to.  He doesn’t just focus on one outreach but develops a campaign for that individual.
  3. His pick up and response rates are stunning!  Where most email campaigns and power diallers report fractions of percents, he is in the mid-high double digits.
  4. Because of the focus and prep work he has done, each one of the conversations he has is more impactful, and he is able to accomplish much more in each conversation than those who haven’t done their homework.
  5. More importantly, a higher percentage of these outreaches convert to qualified opportunities (roughly 50%).
  6. Like the volume/velocity/activity crowd, he’s viciously focused on his numbers.  But he’s connected his numbers to the desired outcomes, and he constantly engineers his process to tilt the outcomes in his favor.
  7. As a result, the activity numbers he has set to achieve his goals are infinitesimal compared to the volume velocity crowd.
  8. On top of this, he has a set of technology tools to help him automate, refine, and improve his outreach.  They help him better monitor, track, and improve his performance.

We can be smart or we can be stupid.  Smart is focused, tough work, but it produces consistent, predictable results.  Stupid is…….well….just stupid!

Howard, thanks for talking me off the ledge  😉


Afterword:  New readers may think I’m a dinosaur and don’t understand the value of technology.  I may actually be a dinosaur, but I’m actually a huge fan and advocate of technology.  The only companies whose boards I sit on are tech, all but one AI.  Technology is very power and core to the future in our ability to drive deep relationships with customers.  In fairness to technology providers, most of the time it’s stupidity is not the fault of technology.  Any solution can be exploited with great value, likewise with great stupidity.  It’s how the purchasers of technology choose to exploit it.

Having said that, I take great offense with those technology providers whose messaging focuses on reinforcing stupidity, mindlessness and the “easy solution.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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