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Dumbing Things Down Versus Radical Simplification

By: Dave Brock



I’m a great advocate of Radical Simplification. Our worlds are too complex; we seem to keep piling things onto everything we’ve done in the past. New programs, new processes, new systems, new tools, new training—layer upon layer accumulates, confusing sales people. What do I do? Which strategy should I follow, do I use this approach or another? It goes on and on.

Too often, however, in response to this complexity and all the “tools” that have been put in place to manage it, instead of seeking simplification we dumb things down. We make it so we don’t have to think, analyze, question, respond.
We have scripts, very complex scripts, branching to handle any customer situation. We listen only to know which branch in the script to follow—not to understand the customer.
We have playbooks guiding us through every twist and turn of the customer buying process.
We have endless sources of content, with tools telling us which piece is best at which time, based on reactions to all other customers.
We have software systems and tools, prompting us what to do next for every customer situation we’ve anticipated.
All of it works until the customer goes off script—until they ask something, do something, or have a need that’s not covered by all our scripts, tools, or processes. Then we are lost. We don’t have a playbook to handle the situation; we don’t have a branch on our script that says, “Listen to the customer; hear what they are saying.”
From the customer’s point of view, there’s an emptiness. They feel like they are being handled, rather than being engaged. They feel like they are being managed, rather than being heard.
The magic of tools, checklists, processes and training is that they free us to think better. They help us engage, hear, and understand the customer. They should provide a foundation to help us adapt and respond, not make us captive to the checklist.
It’s a fine line, and top performers leverage these tools to help them think, analyze, connect and engage. They use these tools to help them be better and to improve their efficiency.
Then there are the others—those applying them blindly without thinking or engaging. Those who use the tools as the excuse for non performance.
Which category do you fall in?  Do they help you think? Or are they a crutch?
As a manager, are you providing these tools to free your people up, or are you making your sales people automatons?
Published: May 20, 2013

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Dave Brock

Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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