Starting With A Blank Sheet Of Paper


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I’d like to go through a thought experiment. You can play along, take out a sheet of paper or open a blank document.

First, as an introduction, our mental models and experience are often great help in understanding our jobs, how we are successful, and how we perform. We all have mental models, our organizations have shared models, enabling us to align, communicate in shorthand, and make sure we are all doing the things important to achieving our goals.

But sometimes our mental models and our past experiences are limiting. If we are driven to transform or change radically, our current models may not get us from here to there–at least as effectively or efficiently as possible.

We have to abandon our old models, and create new ones.

With that a background. What if we were to rethink the process of driving revenue and revenue growth for our companies? What if we were to rethink the process of acquiring, retaining and growing customers for our company? You’ll notice I’m trying to avoid using sales or selling, because then you will think in old models. I’ll change the words to revenue generation and customer acquisition, instead. After all, that’s what sales is responsible for, so why don’t we start there?

How would we structure that function, what would the work be, what types of people would we need to do that work, how would we measure progress?

We might start with some things like, what are the problems we are the best in the world at solving? Those are the products and services our company provides. It is those that drive revenue. We would want to make sure those products and services were important and created value for our customers, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We would also identify things like, who has those problems? Those would be customers or prospective customers. We might call this group the total addressable market. We would profile and characterize them, so it would be easy for us to find and recognize them.

We might also ask, what happens that causes these customers to have those problems? What is the impact of the problems when they occur? How do customers recognize they have the problem? What causes them to choose to address a problem now, as opposed to living with it, ignoring it, or doing something completely different? What happens when they choose to let problems linger? When they have the problem, what do they do to solve those problems? Who’s involved, how do they work together, and so forth? We would learn things like, how do they find solutions to those problems? What are their expectations of those solutions, how do they evaluate the success of those solutions one implemented? How do they educate themselves about the solutions? How do they evaluate alternative solutions? How do they choose a preferred solution and a solution provider?

We might try to understand problems and challenges they face in the process of solving these problems. We might look at the tools and techniques they leverage in trying to find solutions and solving the problems. We might look at the terms and language they use in describing the problems and the work, as well as during the process of looking for solutions. We might look at how they handle group dynamics in the process, how they handle differences of opinions. We might look at failure modes–that is what causes them to fail in choosing a solution or implementing one.

We would try to develop models that best represent all of this stuff. Naturally the models are generalizations, because every situation is different, but we would develop the best pictures and representations that we possibly could.

Note, we haven’t even started to look at how we generate revenue. Instead, we are focusing on the people and organizations that produce the revenue we want to generate. We are trying to understand everything about them and when/how/why they might choose to change?

Now we look at some other things. We might ask ourselves, who are the people and enterprises that we can be most helpful to? We might look at each of the areas we have defined in the above characterization, asking ourselves, how can we be helpful to these people and company at this point—or with this issue–or on this challenge. We would describe those things in terms of information we might provide, work we could do, and so forth. We would pose those questions to ourselves for each aspect that we’ve modeled in the assessment above.

We might develop ideas or premises, and we might then go to typical customers asking them, “when you are doing this to address a problem, would these things be helpful?” We might drill down a little and ask why they are helpful or why they may not be helpful. We might ask if something else would be more helpful.

Eventually, we would develop models for each of the issues about how we could be most helpful to customers having those problems. We would have answers to the information, the work or things we do, for every step of the process the customers are going through.

Note, because we have started this with no preconceived notions of our revenue generation processes, we would not be limited by what we currently do and our mental models or experience. We would also be describing things in terms more familiar to the way customers talk rather than using some mysterious sales and marketing jargon that customers never use.

Once we started developing these models of how we best help (and we might look at several alternatives), we can then start thinking about things like: What are the skills we need to have to most effectively do these things, how do we organize our resources to be most helpful to the customer as they go through these steps, what are the tools and resources we need to help us and the customer at each step, how do we measure our and our customers’ progress.

In doing this, we would be building new mental models of working with customers that is completely aligned with what they do, how they talk, and how they work. We would be redefining the jobs we need to do, leveraging completely new mental models, language, and methods.

These would all be totally aligned with the things customers do and we would not be limited by our current mental models of what sellers do.

Try this exercise by yourself or with your team. Set a rule that you cannot use any of the words and terminology we currently use in Sales-speak, or the selling processes/tools/techniques.

It’s amazing, yesterday, a client and I developed a whole new model for their organization and how they generate revenue without ever using the words and models that traditionally limit us. It is game changing.

Once you develop these new mental models of where you need to be, look at your current models and look at what you need to change to move to the new models.

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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