Chapter 9 The Tools—Lock in Small Gains With Technology – The Human Being’s Guide to Business Growth

CHAPTER 9

The Tools—Lock in Small Gains With Technology

When I’m asked about the impetus behind this book, it’s because for the first five years of consulting, I was brought into companies looking for technological help implementing growth solutions. “Greg, what do you know about programmatic advertising?” and “Greg, I’ve heard you know a lot about getting websites and CRM’s talking to each other and we need help,” were (and are) typical inquiries. When using the FIT acronym for growth, technology is the last step because in this approach, it’s the least important piece of the puzzle to grow your business. Although that makes it sound like you can make do without technology, and that’s obviously not true, you don’t lead with the technology. You lead with Focus on your strategic vision, you get your team to execute on that vision using their Individual Strengths, and then, only then, can you get the most from Technology, even if you’re a technology company. I know, it’s a funny thought, “Hey, technology companies. Put down the technology. You’re not ready yet.”

In this section, we’ll talk about when to look for help from tools and technology, how to unleash insights from the reams of data your company generates every day, how to know what to invest in, the importance of tracking small gains, and getting the most from tools that are lying around the office. I can talk about technology and selling tools until the cows come home, but you’ll find this section to be void of technology recommendations. This is because things change quickly and it’s rare to unleash 100 percent of the potential of any technology product. At this point in our journey, you’ve got your focus in place, you know how to communicate the importance of individual strengths, and now we’re going to lock in small gains with technology.

When to Use Tools and Technology

Technology solutions that promise growth, by themselves, are rarely the answer to a growth problem. Let me tell you the story of an up and coming finance company. As part of their growth, they invested in a website redesign that was getting bogged down, so they asked for my help. Although the principles of the firm were experts in intricate financial matters, they weren’t strong marketers. However, that wasn’t stopping them from expressing strong opinions and holding up the progress of the branding firm they hired. I met with the executive team, had them catch me up on progress, and then met with the branding firm to get their opinion. Neither side was all that interested in having me around but agreed to include me on the project because progress was slow.

On the first day, I needed to catch up on exactly why they were doing this redesign. There was a new logo, a new tagline, and a focus on the strategic vision of the firm, which was easy to see, but when I looked at the old site, outside of switching out the logo, tagline, and copy, what was the problem? I talked to each of the principles who repeated a version of, “the old site isn’t working. It didn’t look good. It didn’t work well. Updates are hard.” I could see how the case for a new site was made, but the reasons were really just variations of, “I don’t like the old site anymore.” That led me to ask a question you’re probably thinking right now, “assume it’s a year from now, and the site is exactly what you want it to be, how will you know it’s working? Where will the growth show up?” It’s a stumper, I know, and just like the questions about what they hated on the old site, there weren’t any good answers. No wonder the branding firm was struggling to make progress.

Later that week, while asking questions and watching a partner click around one of the proposed site designs, I brought up an obvious statement. They conducted approximately zero percent of their business online, so why prioritize this project? Why dedicate so much time? With a roll of his eyes and condescension in his voice, he said something like, “Duh, because when we go meet the companies we want to finance, they need to see that we’re real. Image is super important.” Agreed. So, I asked him to put the shoe on the other foot. How does he make sure a company he wants to work with is legitimate? He paused and said, “I look at their site, see who they work with, check out the bio and background of the person I met,” and as he talked, we looked at each of those elements in the new site. Check, check, and check. The branding agency was providing everything and to me, the site looked perfect. “Man,” he muttered under his breath and clicked off a page.

What was that, I asked him. What was wrong with that page?

“We all look so serious. A bunch of Midwestern white guys with ties.” I gave him the eyebrow raise asking, “and that’s bad because…?” He said, “it makes everyone in our business look so boring and stiff.”

Then it occurred to me, was this all about their pictures? I mean, it ended up being a little more involved than that, but ultimately, the stiff nonsmiling, you-can-trust-us-with-your-money look, was holding this project up. After a long back and forth with the branding agency, we brought the photographer back in, took a series of relaxed headshots, swapped those in on the site, and the project leapt forward.

My point in telling you this story is that what we think of as technology, in this case, the overall function of the website, depended on whether or not everyone liked their photo. About as nontechnical a solution as there is.

Most vendors sell new technologies as a solution in search of a problem instead of the opposite. When we teach technology companies selling complex solutions how to improve their sales cycles, we call it “enlighten me.” The first step is to get in front of buyers, the ones that can prioritize budget, and then enlighten them as to what the world can be. It’s a very effective selling style, but it’s not the best buying style.

The best buying styles, especially for a business of your size, is to know your process and set out to improve it using technology. That’s closer to a problem in search of a solution sequence. You may read that and think, of course, we do that with everything around here. We decide what we want and go looking for it. If so, you’re one of the few. Technology has a special, shiny, eye-catching quality to it that leads us to ignore our sequence and go looking for problems to solve. It has a don’t-be-left-behind quality to it that makes us feel like our non-artificial-intelligence-informed-outbound-lead-generation efforts are the cause of our slow growth. “If we just had a predictive algorithm that optimized our calling schedule, we’d have better results, faster.”

Don’t fall for it. If you put that technology in the hands of a sales person that has no idea where your company is going, doesn’t apply their strengths to their job, and has to trust that the robot is doing a better job of organizing their calling schedule than they are, it’s going to fail. On the other hand, if your rep can see where your company is going, enjoys the opportunity to apply their strengths to their job, and then you place this technology in their hands, you’re going to turbo boost results.

The time to look for tools and technology is once you have your strategic vision in place, your managers are taking advantage of their people’s self-identified strengths, and trying new growth tactics. Let’s go through the list of business development ideas from Chapter 6.

Volunteering—what technology will free up an extra hour or two a month for your staff that has started volunteering and making new contacts?

Networking events—as your people connect with new people and companies, what software will automate the follow up and Marketing Qualified Lead process?

Writing about the work you do—for staff that takes on blogging or submitting articles to trade magazines, what tools will help them brainstorm new ideas?

Commenting on online content—there are reasons for managers to be concerned with this kind of outreach, but what tools will improve targeting?

Trade association leadership—time constraints and resource allocation are challenges for association leaders, and organization tools can keep your people sane.

Mining contacts for referrals—armed with target profiles and triggering events, your people are prospecting and predictive agent tools can extend their efforts.

Looking for endorsements from clients and vendors—as requests are made, follow up and follow through become important and justify automation technology.

Sharing company content with their network—posting company content across social media channels, especially re-posting content over time on multiple channels can be automated.

Writing cards and thank you notes—the challenge with writing notes is remembering to do it consistently but not being robot like. Funny thing is, artificial intelligence tools can help.

Asking service providers for links from their websites—it’s a multistep process to ask, follow up, get links, track, and thanking providers. A process made easier with the right software.

Sharing their best practices in a webinar—early attempts at most of these tactics will results in screams of, “this isn’t scalable!” but it can be once the process is noted and there is some success. We have the technology.

Asking for introductions to other businesses—like thank you notes or sharing company content, tracking what you did and how you did it can be automated.

Teaching vendors and customers how to promote your services—before affiliate programs are put in place, the final program needs to be tested and measured. Once it’s established, invest in software to simplify the process from introduction, to contracting, to accounting.

Obviously, investing in every single one of these tools is not economically prudent, and that’s the main reason we recommend that technology be the last step in the process, not the first. The right time to introduce the technology is once you know what you’re going to improve, which requires data.

Be Data-Informed, Not Data-Driven

In Chapter 2 we brought up one of Mr. Carl’s favorite sayings, “In God we trust, all others bring data,” a gentle reminder to ground our decisions in facts whenever possible.

What is it now?

What do you want it to be?

What’s the value of the difference?

What’s the impact on results over time?

When we talk about being data-driven, it appeals to that organized, structured part of the brain that makes us write down detailed plans for our New Year’s resolutions. Just as most of those resolutions go unfulfilled—regardless of the amount of detail in our plans—the more data we use to drive our business does not equate to better outcomes. So we make a subtle shift and say that we want to be data-informed in our business decisions. We’ll cover why that’s important and how it works in this section.

As a young sales representative, I was subjected to a data-driven decision maker. My sales manager was a great fan of spreadsheets, call reports, and system activity reports. After working with him for a couple of months, he pulled me into his office. My numbers were okay, not spectacular for a new rep. He pulled out pages and pages of print reports and laid it in front of me. The stats were showing that I was rewarded with a sale for every 100 calls I made. Knowing that, the way to double sales, reasoned my manager, is simple. Greg, double your calls.

On the surface that made complete sense. Twice as many calls would mean twice as many conversations, twice as many presentations, twice as many proposals, and twice as many sales. In practice, however, it didn’t work that way. I worked hard to increase the number of calls I made and sales started to creep up. My manager was ecstatic. “Keep it up,” he said, “and soon you’ll be at the top of the board.” The thing was, after one month of good results, my sales went down. After two months of increased activity, I was getting depressed because sales continued to go down.

Why would that happen?

I’ll tell you what happened in a minute, but here’s the main lesson I learned about being data-informed versus data-driven. As you manage a number and it becomes public, the value derived from managing that measurement begins to degrade. Look at Figure 9.1.

Once you have a data element that you manage, your people will learn that number is important, and they’ll begin gaming the number. It’s like the old saying, once you’ve seen the bright lights of Paris, you can’t go back to the farm. It’s true. Once you and your people see the value in managing a metric up or down, it begins to lose its effectiveness and you plateau. We’ve been big proponents in the past of what I’ll call the “magic metric” but found that in small- to mid-sized businesses, unless it’s a secret magic metric, it loses value over time.

Figure 9.1 The S curve of growth

Back to my story, when I started expressing doubt about the number of calls I made having a direct impact on sales, my manager held fast to the numbers. I however, stared at the dull green screen of my IBM mainframe terminal and, dreading the calls I needed to make, scrolled through the callbacks scheduled for the day. Mindlessly clicking F6 to advance from one record to the next. At the bottom of the screen were the first five lines of notes on the account and a pattern started to emerge. LVM, LVM, LVM, LVM, my notes for left voice mail. As I went from one record to the next it became apparent that the metric my boss and I were focused on was the wrong one. It wasn’t calls, it was conversations. I began tracking those and it reversed the sales decline to the point where I was promoted.

Naturally, I promoted tracking conversations, not calls, to my peers. It was the magic metric in my opinion and I can still build a case for tracking conversations today. At first, my peers enjoyed some success in the switch from tracking calls to actual conversations, but that plateaued over time. We switched to tracking presentations and proposals that made a difference, at first, then it faded. This happened over and over again, we would dig into the data, find a metric that impacted results, manage it, see success, and then watch its effectiveness pleateau. That’s where the definition of “data informed” came from. If we use the “bring data” quote and couple it with the term data-driven, our managers and employees imagine a perfectly functioning world where data tells us everything we need to know about the future.

As my kids say, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.” Remember, as we have discussed, only the past is perfect and guess where data resides? Yes, in the past. The future is fluid and the decisions we make today impact it. That’s when we started using the term “data informed” coupled with Mr. Carl’s favorite quote. It reminded us to couch our decisions in data, not opinion, but it kept us from thinking we’ve uncovered a universal truth that manages growth, forever.

What does this have to do with unleashing your people’s growth potential? As you get them to try new activities, you’re going to collect data on their efforts. That data will show you and show the team which levers to tweak and where to expect results. Each time you build by managing those metrics, your results will trend up, and then begin to level out. We use the S-curve of growth, Figure 9.1 to remind us of this phenomenon. Measure—build—plateau—new measure.

Our advice is to make a big list of metrics that seem to impact results. Measure them all, but pick one at a time to promote heavily. Here’s the scary part, you can pick any metric and it will have an impact for a while. If my manager would have told me to focus on putting in fewer hours of actual calling time, and more hours of research, it would have bumped sales. If he would have told me to focus on my talk time, stressing quality over quantity, it would have bumped sales. How do I know? Because I tried them all. And they all worked, for a time. What I learned was when to recognize when a change was needed, and having a plan for where to go next. I learned how to be data-informed, a more strategic approach to being data-driven.

Buy Technology With the End in Mind

Selling technology has taught me one thing you’ll find helpful as you invest in its promises over the coming years: buy technology with the end in mind. As I mentioned, I sold bicycles in a little shop nestled near the foothills west of Denver, Colorado. This was the early 1990s and mountain biking was taking hold. It was a great time to be selling bicycles because there was a new reason to upgrade from your 1970s Nishiki 10 speed that wouldn’t die. As a shop manager, I had access to every 20-year old male’s golden fleece, the pro-deal. The pro-deal, in case you aren’t aware of such things, is what every wrench in the bike shop works for, below wholesale pricing. The manufacturers would let you buy the equipment at near cost because if the shop manager used it, people bought more of it. It’s a retail promotion staple and it works, even for my old Mad Gringo brightly colored tropical shirts.

Anyway, I was the manager and one of our vendors, Diamond Back, was touting a new technology that promised to revolutionize mountain and trail biking—the 700cc wheel. It seems silly, but all the mountain bikes were fat tired 26inch wheels and physics will tell you that a larger diameter wheel rolls over obstacles easier, so a 700cc, or 27inch wheel, will deal with obstacles better than a 26inch wheel. Is it true? I don’t know, but I bought into it and when I left the bike shop to sell insurance for a living, I took a 700cc mountain bike with me.

Here’s the thing, it was a new idea and Diamond Back was among the first to promote it, but it didn’t catch on for a decade or so. In the meantime, every time I needed a new part, especially a wheel part, say a tire, there weren’t any. I owned the Beta-max, the Zune, or the equivalent of 100,000 MySpace fans of mountain bikes. It’s colored my view of shiny, new things ever since.

When you invest in technology for your team, you have no idea if it will be the market dominating force of the future, or Greg’s mountain bike, so buy technology with the end in mind. Here are four rules for future proofing your technology purchases:

1. Control. This one is as much a pet peeve about how technology is sold as it is a directive on what to do. You’re investing in the technology to help your business, and whether or not you understand how it works or do the work yourself, you need to have the option for taking control of it if necessary. The way some value-added resellers and even the technology companies themselves sell their wares is a lot like ransomware. You use the technology, building value in the data that resides in the technology, and then one day when you want to access it you’re told that you have to basically pay a ransom. It’s my opinion that this comes from the idea that if you’re locked in, you’ll find a way to make it work. That’s true, but if you love the technology you won’t leave, so they’re just being lazy. Get control of the technology or understand what the investment is to own the data outright.

2. Export into text files. One of my favorite newsletters from the first dot com era was from Mark Hurst, and he called it Creative Good. I think of it as a newsletter about usability, but Mark may label it differently. His focus is on the customer, making a great customer experience a competitive advantage. I bring him up because he wrote a book about managing your e-mail called Bit Literacy, which I recommend for anyone using their e-mail inbox as a to-do list. In that book, he recommends managing files by saving them as text files, the basic version of text such as notepad or text editor and the reason is because it’s a file format that can be read by any program. You want your technology, no matter how advanced, to do the same thing. There’s a reason why LinkedIn lets you download your full file in .csv. If they will let you do it, don’t let any provider tell you they will only export in their native format. That’s not future proof.

3. Take it in and out. When I worked at the big bank, there were some technology decisions that we derided as being short-sighted, but now I see them differently. The bank had a habit of alternately bringing technology in-house, outsourcing that same technology years later, then buying it back in-house. When it was in-house, I poked fun at them because the technology wasn’t current and took too long to improve. Alternately, when they used a vendor, I poked fun because they were paying too much for what they got. When my two-faced arguments were pointed out to me, I had to sit back and think about which approach I should continue making fun of and came to the conclusion that my premise was wrong. I could see the issues with both approaches, but as you move into the future, there are times where it’s best for you to outsource and there are times when you’ll want to have a team on staff to manage your investment. How do you know which time is which in business development technology? Start with owning the database, then renting anything that you will layer on top of the database.

4. Off the rack is better than bespoke. With the existence of the cloud and the popularity of Software as a Service (SaaS) as tools, this last idea may be the industry norm as you read this. Custom software is any software that is created specifically for you. Like a bespoke suit, it will fit perfectly, only have the features that you want, and elegantly accomplish the tasks it sets out to do. Off the rack software, on the other hand, will be close to what you want, but not exact. Its advantage is price because it’s often much cheaper than custom development. For that reason, I have become an advocate for off-the-shelf software that is tailored as much as is reasonable, and living with shortcomings. It saves money and offers flexibility. I have some rules of thumb when looking at off-the-shelf software:

Broad user base. The more users, the more stable the software and the more features that you didn’t know you’d want will be there.

Development kit. My old indicator was the existence of a SDK or software development kit, my current indicator is the existence of a robust API with a lot of documentation.

Portable. Going back to #2 above, can you take it with you in some form? If yes, then proceed.

Get positive responses on those three rules of thumb and you’ll be safe because these rules tell you how much tailoring is possible. The more flexible your solution, the more likely your tech will get you to your future destination.

This approach to keeping the end in mind when buying technology won’t keep you from avoiding my bicycle purchase, but it will save you some money, giving you flexibility, and it will provide you with an approach that can be altered as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. The goal is to lock in small improvements using technology.

Locking in Small Gains for Giant Results

I can remember my friendly teller explaining “the miracle of compound interest” when I opened up my first savings account as a schoolboy, and its lessons are the basis for this section. The explanation stuck with me because while I’ve always understood it intellectually, in practice the time part of the equation throws me off. Selling insurance, we used a quick math meme, the Rule of 70, to quickly figure out how many years it takes for a rate of return to double your money, which is to divide the rate of interest into 70, what you have left is the number of years it will take to double your investment. For instance, a 10 percent rate of return will double your money in seven years. That means that my savings account is going to take over 50 years to double? That’s what I mean by time throwing me off.

Later, I found that removing money from the equation and replacing it with an abstract such as improving sales ability, I had an easy way to explain how incremental improvement adds up over time. My mental stumbling block slips away because time is compressed. A bank says, “we pay one percent” but it’s really only 1 percent divided by 365 days in a year that compounds, right? In the small- to mid-sized business world, on the other hand, you really can have 1 percent improvement every working day. That means, you’re 100 percent better every 70 working days, so, just by trying to improve a tiny bit every day, even if you’re in the bottom 5 percent of selling ability, you can make giant leaps over time, like in Figure 9.2.

You’re not here for a rudimentary math lesson, but you are here for shortcuts on how to unleash your people’s potential, and that’s what this is. A shortcut, a pithy statement you can use, a meme you can share that will help you get to your goal faster.

One percent improvement every working day is something your people can commit to. Now, unlike the fable of the chessboard and the Indian prince’s wheat, “please sir, all I ask for is a single kernel of wheat on the first square, and for you to double it on each subsequent square” led to the bankruptcy of the prince, there is a limit to the improvement of your people. The first 14 weeks is easy, the last 14 weeks is hard. Our advice is to focus on the every-day part of the story, not the actual math. When “one percent improvement” becomes part of your lexicon, your people refocus their effort and look for ways to get better.

Figure 9.2 Sales improvement compounding over time

Let’s talk about how to start by going back to our evidence questions:

What is it now?

What do you want it to be?

What’s the value of the difference?

What’s the impact on results over time?

That first question, what is it now, is always the place to start. To be one percent better, we need to know the answer to the second half of this statement—one percent better than we are right now. Where does that measurement of current ability come from? Anywhere. Put a stake in the ground. Start wherever you are and go from there. If your managers need help, get them to use a number line as an aid.

“On a scale of one to ten,” is how it starts, with your manager describing what 1 is and what 10 is. The key is to get the employee to actively engage with where they are on the scale.

Ted, I’m not asking for perfection. Just an effort to improve because our company needs your help to get where we’re going. Why don’t we start by doing this: on a scale of one to ten, with one being the worst at sales ever, and ten being the best, where would you put yourself on that scale?

Ted will have to consider many angles to that answer and your manager will have to remind him that it’s not a test, but eventually he’ll land on a number. “I’d say I’m a three.”

“Good. Let’s just focus on getting one percent better there. From a three to a three point zero one today. Let’s brainstorm a few ideas on what we can do to make that happen.”

It’s rooted in the idea of incremental improvement, and by reducing it to the ridiculous, your employees can commit and get better. A little bit each day. Across the entire organization. If you have 100 people and at least one of them gets a little better at business development today, you’re going to have eight times the number of opportunities at the end of this year as you did all of last year.

Simple, just not easy.

Maximize What You Have, Add What You Need

Let’s talk about the timing around when to apply technology or upgrade technology, the last of the common issues that we consult with clients on. Have you heard the radio show or podcast Radiolab? It’s a show where they tell stories about technology, science, and the human experience. One day I was in my car listening to an episode that included scientists from Columbia University studying how rat mothers pass their parenting skills down from one generation to the next [episode Inheritance, section 1, 17:30]. It seems that the good rat mothers lick their babies more frequently than bad rat mothers. In describing how they study the 40 rat mothers and their 16 to 20 babies, the host jumps in and asks, “How do you count this?” She describes the process that involves someone looking at the cages for five hours a day for six days in a row to get the count.

Thirty hours of standing in front of rat cages counting licks. The host describes it as “the mind crushing tedium” of science.

The reason I bring this up is because until you know you have a process that will work for you, there isn’t a reason to automate or scale your activities. Sure, the technology is there and I’m sure the scientists at Columbia could use Amazon’s mechanical turk or something to put in less effort on the front end, but it’s the effort, the mind crushing tedium of doing an activity manually, that yields insights.

I find this happens when I start on a new project. The temptation is to jump in and retrofit a solution that worked well for another client and I’ll admit to taking shortcuts here and there in the work, but I have learned time and time again, it’s the tedious process that reveals insights. That gives the unique results we’re looking for. So, this is a plea to you, dear reader, to live with the tedium of the process before worrying about whether or not the process can scale and be automated with technology.

As you learn what your people are willing to do for business development and it shows us what works and what doesn’t, you’ll still need to make the choice about whether to keep the technology you use now or to whether you should invest in new technology. Table 9.1 is a chart we use to stimulate the discussion. Score each section by choosing the statement closest to your current situation.

Looking at the chart, you’ll notice the difference between keeping and upgrading, the two sections. The first question is always about whether or not to keep the technology you have and to maximize its usefulness—as long as it allows for upgrading down the road. On the other hand, if your current tech doesn’t allow for upgrading, the rebuilding process when you finally upgrade is painful enough that I recommend upgrading right away to avoid the pain of dealing with proprietary file formats in the future. We refer to this internally as “black box” technologies. The black box technology providers hide behind a slick user interface and impressive lists of options, but in the end, if you leave the technology for a competitor in the future, you will be penalized. It’s like the ransomware in the news from time to time with corporate computers hijacked by some nefarious group that holds your data hostage for Bitcoins. The way some technology providers work is similar in that as long as you pay them, you get your data, but as soon as you leave, your data is gone, your website is shuttered, or your customer information is only made available via a special project run by the technology provider. Save yourself a lot of headache and get out of those agreements now before you need to upgrade your technology.

Table 9.1 Should we keep our current technology or upgrade?

How do we know if we should keep our current technology?

 

Score

 

It’s hard to get reports from our tech

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

Our tech lets us track the steps in our process

We have to remind our people to use our tech

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

Our people use our tech every day

Our tech doesn’t track average time in each step of our process

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

Our tech lets us track average time spent in each step of our process

Our tech exports into a proprietary file format

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

Our tech exports into a flat text file

When your score is over 30, there is a case to be made for keeping your current technology. You know how it works, your people are using it and it’s exportable when it comes time to upgrade to something more robust.

 

How do we know if we should upgrade our working technology?

 

Score

 

We have a hunch that business results will be better

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

We can quantify where the upgrade will show up in our business results

We have a feeling an upgrade will save time and effort

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

We can attach a value to that measurement

We don’t have the skills to maintain the technology in house

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

We have internal resources to maintain our new technology

Our people will use the technology because we instruct them to

1 – 3 – 6 – 10

We have dedicated resources to ensure our people will use the technology

Once again, when your score is over 30, we’re looking at a good case for upgrading because you know where you expect improved results to appear, you have a way of measuring the results, and you can put a value to it, tangible or intangible.

The last thoughts on technology are about the most common challenges your company will face as you invest or consider investing in new technology. They are buying technology with the expectation that you’ll grow into it, getting your people to use the technology, and trying to implement someone else’s vision.

Buying a size too big and expecting to grow into it. One of my clients was so excited about the outcomes an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system consultant promised to provide. This ERP could do anything, but required a lot of resources and, the big challenge, a lot of planning. The business was growing at such a pace that their processes were in a constant state of flux. The software was going to reduce the amount of time they spent on data entry and analysis, but their business didn’t have the resources for a dedicated technology team to build during the daily press of business. That meant their current team had to do double time to educate the consultants and continue with daily operations. That worked for a while, but as the technology was introduced and needed troubleshooting, things bogged down. They agreed that they would have been better off double timing their regular business efforts and noting their processes before adding technology. With the shoes too big, they couldn’t run the race.

Overcoming resistance to increased data entry. In order to be more data-informed, your people will need to generate more data. As my brother-in-law, a database administrator, will tell you, “GIGO, garbage in, garbage out.” To get the best information from your database, it needs to have the best data going in. Recently, I attended a growing technology provider’s conference and when my nametag printed out it said, “Greg Chambers, CPI-OUT OF BUSINESS,” which embarrassed the vendor’s employee but made me smile. Some rep must have called, not gotten through and added a note into the company name field to remind himself not to call again. It’s an effort to get your people to input their knowledge into the database, and another effort to get them to adhere to your database’s field integrity requirements. Your people will resist the additional work required to make the database a competitive advantage. That said, knowing the company’s focus and encouraging them to use their strengths to get the job done will help, and you’ll need all the help you can get to overcome the resistance to data entry, which is equated to “more work.” Always tie requests to the future. It won’t remove all resistance, but it will help.

Implementing the technology company’s vision, not improving your own internal processes. The Patton quote we use to express this idea is, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” It’s sometimes used to exhort a client to take action and not wait, but we can also apply it to industry best practices that are pushed down from consultants and technology providers. The best companies are doing X, so you should do X, only works if your people will actually do X. Otherwise, you’ll get better results from Y, even if it’s suboptimal. We encourage our clients to focus on what their people are willing to do and use technology to help them do it. When you force a best practice on your people which didn’t bubble up from your daily operations, they’ll try it for a while and when it doesn’t work, it will turn into a “we tried that, it didn’t work for us,” excuse for not trying again.

Technology isn’t going to lead to growth without strong focus and strong management. That said, with a strong, clear focus and a management team in place that knows how to unleash your people’s hidden selling power, technology will act as a catalyst that provides consistency to your people, which leads to momentum, which propels your company through obstacles. Look at Figure 9.3.

We’ve been discussing the reasons to use the FIT framework and this is a good time to look at what happens when your business is out of balance with FIT.

In Figure 9.3, position 1, you have Focus and you’re teaching your people to manage by Individual Strengths. When this happens growth comes in fits and starts. If you looked at growth on a graph, it has big peaks and valleys. The reason for that is because your people are human. The goal that was new and exciting becomes old and tired in a short time, and if new business activity isn’t consistent, momentum never gets built. That brings a feast or famine result and sustained growth is impossible. To continue the analogy, your people own a suit that they know makes them look great and feels fantastic, but they forget that it’s in the closet and only pull it out for special occasions. Balancing Focus and Individual strengths with Technology levels results.

Figure 9.3 How the elements of FIT work together

In position 2, you are managing by Individual Strengths and using Tools and technology to increase activity. This is the most common scenario we bump into in our consulting practice. The problem with not being in balance with Focus is your people start wandering off aimlessly. They make progress and even gain momentum to overcome obstacles to growth, but they aren’t moving in the same direction. It seems basic to say that your company needs a strong, clear strategic direction, but we see it every day, and as Mr. Carl used to tell me, “Greg, every port looks good in storm.” Your people need Focus, a strategic direction to create the tension needed to press for the next level. They need to recognize that the closest port may be the wrong port, so even though it requires more work, they need to continue fighting the storm and stretch to get to the right destination.

In position 3, you have Focus and you’re using Tools built to help your people get more done in less time, but your managers are not managing by Individual Strengths. When that happens, companies still experience slow growth or no growth because your people are not bought in, they are noncompliant. Without Individual strengths as part of your program, the business practices you’re asking them to complete just don’t feel right, no matter how clear the goal and how impressive the tech stack. You’re asking your people to wear a suit that pinches and pulls and it prevents growth.

Balance in all three areas of FIT, getting each part working in harmony, gives your company growth with momentum, and helps your team work in flow, unleashing growth.

Remember

Technology helps when there is a process in place that you want to improve upon, it doesn’t help design a process.

Strive to be data-informed, not data-driven.

View your sales and marketing tech stack through a lens focused on locking in small gains that will lead to giant results.