Win lose draw dice

Selling In The Past0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 5

Last week in the Proactive Prospecting Summer series, we looked at how to respond to the question of “What Do You Sell”. Arguing that the response needs to align with buyer/prospect expectations, meaning the statement should be about the business outcomes achieved, not the means of achieving them. The question I usually get, and a valid one, is “Well how am I supposed to know what their objectives are or business impacts they are looking for?” Well, it may take a bit of effort, but most sales people know this better than they pretend, they just have to change a few approaches.

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”
Avoid Being Doomed

While most sales people nod knowingly when you say this, they fail to follow through on actually reviewing and understanding why the opportunity ended the way it did. Oddly enough, one of the most common refrains I get from sales managers is that it is not a good use of time, as opposed to the time wasted doing the same thing over and over without thought. There is some merit to the argument that if you have a lot of opportunities go in to the pipeline every month, then it does take a disproportionate time to properly review all of them. You can get the same outcome by reviewing a representative sample. If you are one of those sales that is more transactional, and say you have 50 opportunities that go into the pipeline, you can review 10 – 15 and gain all the benefit, without the fat.

The other thing you want to do is review all three outcomes, win – lose – draw (no decision). You can pretend like some do that you can get away with reviewing only wins or only losses, but you run the risk of not spotting trends early enough, and only responding to change after it bites you. You also want to make sure to review the no decisions, these will give you insights as to why the deal stalled, so you can approach it differently next time. Better yet, since they did engage, you have some understanding of what was getting them to act, and the review will tell why they stopped; as things change, these will be the first opportunities to go to, rekindle, and complete.

What Are We Looking For?

Even in organizations where they do a more thorough job reviewing outcomes, they tend to look at how they executed, important, but not what we want you to focus on. We are looking to understand objectives we have been able to help customers achieve, and more specifically, what business outcomes they realized as a result.

I spoke with a company whose business it is to do third party post mortems, and they point to the fact that in most instances sales people cannot articulate why they lost a give deal. Where sales people will point to product features, price, personalities, and similar “not my fault, did everything I could”, the reality they find over and over is different.

When prospects who chose another vendor are interviewed by a professional who is looking to understand, not rationalize, the story is entirely different. Prospects tell them they did not get the sense that rep understood their direction, place in the market, and issues they faced in their reality, not one shaped and defined by a product, and the rep’s quota.

You may ask why this is important on cold prospecting call? Well if you call and sound like the 5,000 calls before you, you are going to suffer a similar fate to 4,999 of them. Product, feature, ROI, all noise. What difference can you make to their objectives, their market share, their cost of borrowing, their cost structure, or any of the other things they were likely thinking about based on their role and objectives. Start a call with that and you increase you odds of engaging, getting an objection you can deal with, and turn an interruption into a conversation.

How Do We Do This

We use a tool called the 360 Degree Deal View, you can download it here. While it does capture the usual execution stuff, it allows you to focus on objectives broadly speaking, and then the specific underlying elements. It does so in a way that allows you to lead with objectives and outcomes, and build from there.

Next Step

Download the 360 Degree Deal View, play with it, run your last five deals through it, see what you discover. You can also visit Sales Gravy University, and enroll in the Proactive Prospecting Program, there is a complete section on why you should adopt a review process, and several segments on how to best use the 360 Degree Deal View. As you do, and you need some input or have questions, just reach out happy to help.

PPP On Demand

EDGE Process

When All Else Fails1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently had the pleasure of recording a podcast with Jeb Blount, as part of the addition of Proactive Prospecting Program to Sales Gravy University. One area we explored was what we can do when we are having a day, or a streak, where everything we touch turns to shite, and it makes us afraid to touch the phone or the next opportunity. Now I know we pundits are supposed to be an optimistic lot, almost intentionally ignoring the dark side of sales, rah rah, and all that stuff. Fortunately, Jeb is a more real than that, and wanted to explore a reality all in sales face, and regularly.

As with most things in sales, the outcome is not based on one single thing or action, but a series of connected and incremental factors, executed simultaneously that lead to results.

This is why, those who do see sales as a science artfully executed will have an advantage, not just when things are going well, but more importantly, when they are not. At the heart of this is having a clearly defined, better yet, clearly “followable” process.

When in doubt, work your process. If you are a successful sales person, one that usually makes quota, and you have done that by sticking to your game plan, based on a clear road map, highlighting desired outcomes, paths to that outcome, contingency plans, and more; then you know that what got you there. Your process! Your consistent execution, your success, especially when almost half your peers are not making quota, is all driven by your process. At a time of struggle, don’t abandon it, double down, recommit and execute.

This isn’t about blind faith. Part of any successful sales process is that it is dynamic in nature. Meaning it evolves with your markets, not locking you into a singular means of execution, but instead reflecting changes in the market. For this to take place, a dynamic process, is an ongoing “feedback loop”. That feedback is captured from two key sources.

EDGE ProcessThe first is the customer; as their expectations, reactions, objections, change and evolve, so should your process. Many companies make the mistake of designing a process; then altering it not to reflect the market, but the inadequacies of their CRM. The second is the rep, if they fail to contribute their experiences in the field, and fail to contribute to process reviews (these are not opportunity reviews), then the process will stay as is. This allows your sales enablement team (when they are not fiddling with the latest app), to combine these two inputs, along with market sources to ensure that your process not only reflects the market, but that allows your sellers to leverage that view, and allow them to win not only more deals, but more predictably. This is how the process evolves, stays dynamic, and provides you with a proven and fair advantage.

If you have that process in place, and you hit a slump, as every pro does along the way, then the resolution is simple, stick to what got you there. If you don’t have that kind of process in place you have two choices. One, find a company that does, and you’ll make money. Second, Hope the pinball ride ends and you bounce back before your run out of time.

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Sitting

Don’t Just Do Something – Sit There!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

All too many people confuse activity or action with productivity or results. Think of how many times the best thing you can say about a movie or a game is that it was “action filled”. In sales, many often confuse activity with moving the sale forward or execution, bringing to mind the saying about the deck chairs on the Titanic. And while action is at times better than no action at all, it is not always the case. The difference would be in the intent and purpose.

Execution should be the tactical manifestation of a strategy, or more accurately strategies. An overall corporate sales strategy, territory and account strategies, and then a strategy for every encounter with a laser focus on logical next steps. Execution is not, or should not be, a means of formulating your strategy by trial and error. It is often those sales leaders who rely on the trial and error method that complain that their sales cycles are too long, and are looking for a way to shorten the cycle. Well, start by not doing unthought-out things that don’t directly support your goal, and more importantly that of the buyer.

Now don’t get me wrong, more often than not, it is good to put (new) skills into practice or action. This way we can review and adjust, and bring improvement over time. The key is the action being taken is in context of specific goals, one supported by a strategy (or at minimum a plan), and the execution is driven by a clear process.

Now before your roll your eyes – Anderson Style, like many do at the mention of process, consider how a dynamic process can make selling, if not easier, more straight forward. The challenge is that most confuse process with a series of predesigned steps.

While there may be a logical path or sequence in well thought-out sales processes, it is not the end all and be all, but a start. A process should allow you to best engage your buyer around their objectives, leading to the business impacts they were looking for, or more when they deal with a good sales person.

A good sales process is one that evolves with your market, one that is dynamic and reflects the market, rather than a static process that expects the market to bend to your view, which it usually does not.

As such, a key feature of a process, is not in telling you exactly what to do in each circumstance. This leaves one exposed when circumstances change, which is daily, or when we encounter circumstances our process, and the folks who designed it, did not take into account.

SittingThe best processes are those that encourage people to think about the specific situation they are facing. The means and steps with which to evaluate, and then respond or act, rather than many of the processes that send people off to do something and then try to figure out why things went wrong, after the fact.

The best sales processes are those that encourage you to stop, step back, evaluate, come up with a course of action based on the here and now, and then act. Ones that allow you to not do something for the sake of doing something, and instead execute those actions that drive value for the buyer, and move the process forward. It’s OK not to do something, and sit back and think instead.

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The Microphone

Process and Execution Rule in B2B Selling – #Podcast0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

For those not familiar with Andy Paul, here is your opportunity to discover a great resource. Not only is Andy knowledgeable about all elements of B2B selling, author of two great books: Zero Time Selling and AMP Up Your Sale; and most relevant today, he hosts one of the better blogs looking at all areas of successful B2B selling and everything around. His guests address very specific strategic and tactical aspects of sales you’ll be able to implement and benefit from right away.

In the episode below, it was my turn. Andy and I look at process and execution. Have a listen, and feel free to reach out if I can expand on anything or help you implement.

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Sales_Cartoon_sales process

Never Let A Good Plan Get In The Way Of Success!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In some sports and other skills based endeavours, for example figure skating, you can score points for artistic merit, and you also get scored on execution. Sales on the other hand is more like hockey or football (North American), while Artistic Merit is admired, execution is key, but the only measure that counts at the end, is the outcome, did we win, or, well really, what else is there? Execution is a means to an end, not an end on to itself, which is why teams and coaches use playbooks to help their teams execute better, but better execution without the results, i.e. winning a client and the revenue that leads to, does not lead to long term sales success.

Sales_Cartoon_sales processWhile I have always been a proponent of a good sales process, and having a playbook to assist and improve execution, let’s not lose sight of the overall objective: Revenue! I worry when I see sales managers and leaders put a greater emphasis on process and playbook than results. I have seen to many mistake one for the other, where sales people who delivered results were questioned about why they did not follow the process, rather than given credit for assessing the situation and acting.

You can see the opposite of this when sales people who continue to underperform, but are maintained (and rationalized) because they were “compliant”, followed the process. Don’t be that seller who continuously achieves also-ran status with high artistic merit, and low points for execution.

A process and playbook are meant to be dynamic and evolving, the only way to improve and to ensure that it is effective in the only thing that counts, Revenue, to continue to evolve it based on market realities. The market and out prospects continue to evolve, treating your playbook and process as though they are impervious to change will only lead to more work, and over time diminished results.

Playbooks are a collection of best practices, which requires we continue to test, examine, deploy, review and execute again. They are guidelines not divine declarations, every day your process does not evolve in some way, is a day you fall behind. We cringe when prospects say “because we have always done it that way”, yet we seem to be comfortable with allowing that thinking when it comes to playbooks and processes.

Too many sales managers and organization spend too much valuable time on pipeline reviews, a deep dive of ass covering. Instead they should be doing process and playbook reviews, after all what is in your pipeline is a result of how good your process is and how well it is executed. In fact, they should be doing Pipeline Previews, this allows my clients to look ahead, and understand which elements of their playbook and process will help move the sale forward, and which need to evolve to ensure they win the sale. Good execution of a bad process or playbook means nothing at the end of the day; may look good, but little more.

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no-rules

There Are No Rules In Sales3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s hard not to laugh sometimes when I hear sales people say something like “Well, it’s supposed to go like this…”, or “I was told to do it that way, cause when we do that the prospects do…” But instead I am empathetic to their plight and innocence. Empathetic, because some manager or pundit told them that if they took a specific step or action, the prospect would react in some specific way. But we all know there are no rules in sales, especially rules that prospect will behave in any way just because of what we may do.

Now pundits have books to sell, and managers have their own agenda, a common one they share is their need for you as a sales rep to act on what they say, hard to do if they mentioned that there are no guarantees, usually because there are no rules.

Studies continue to show that less 20% of Sales Qualified Leads actually close, call that handshake to close, less than 20% – so even if pretended there are rules, they clearly don’t work if the measure is success. I suspect that that as long as sales continues to dependent on interaction between two or more people, rules are hard to articulate or impose.

no-rulesI keep hearing, buyers have changed, and one reason for that is their greater access to information, information about you, your competitors, and if you’re active on Facebook, where you had and what you had for dinner Friday night. You know what else they have access to, sales and sales related info. You think only sellers buy and read sales books; you think that sellers are the only ones who can subscribe to sales blogs and update. I bet more buyers read sales blogs than sellers who read blogs about purchasing, or role specific sites that speak to the different functions covered by the 5.4 people likely to be involved in your sale. There are no secrets.

With buyers who have gone through a few buying cycles, are likely more familiar with “Seller Personas” than many sellers are with buyer personas. In fact, I know buyers who place bets on which category of sales the next person to visit will wear. Based on what they see, they too adapt a persona, just to mess with and see where the seller goes with it. The only time they are genuine when dealing with a genuine individual.

To be genuine, you need to understand what you are doing well, here defined as things that people respond to, and what is not getting you traction with real buyers. By real, we mean, not exclusively price driven, and does indeed buy in a realistic timeframe from when you initially engaged. Since people differ, leading to differences in experience, your best shot is to commit to a formal process of reviewing all the opportunities that qualify to be active in your pipeline. As you gather and grow data, you will be able to bell curve the data and begin to see what works more often, and what doesn’t. As you approach similar situations, you will be able to use those things that have worked in similar situations in the past. Think of it as trial and error with the unfair advantage of data and experience. It will take a bit of work in the form of analysis, but given the apps and tools available today, gathering the inputs is easy. I guess the only rule may be that there are no silver bullets or codes to crack, just act-review-apply learning. A simple but effective rule.

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Taking a look at oneself

The Easiest Person To Lie To Is Yourself0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I hear a lot of talk in sales about lying, not so much about how they may lie to win business, but in broader terms. We have all heard the use of “buyers are liars”, or its popular cousin “sellers are liars”. While there are probably liars in both camps, undoubtedly in the same proportion and distribution as in the general population, and likely less among successful sales people.

Taking a look at oneselfWhile not limited to sales people, the worst lie sales people tell, are the ones they tell themselves. This is not to say that these people are dishonest, but rather, that they don’t want (or are unable) to deal with the reality facing them. One example was highlighted in a recent piece about pipelines, where sales people lie to themselves about the quality of individual opportunities, and by extension, they lie to themselves, their managers and companies about the state of the entire pipeline, and the ultimate revenue delivered. That lie then forces them to lie about the necessity to prospect, after all they tell themselves and their manager, “Just look all the things I have going on in my pipeline.”

One way to not mislead ones’ self is to have a realistic plan for your sales, both long term and short term. Beyond specific activities, this needs to include an overall annual territory plan; key account plans; prospecting plans; and most importantly at a minimum monthly activity plans, although it would not kill you to have one that continuously covers the next two weeks.

It is always a good idea, and learning opportunity to have your plan validated, if you don’t have a manager, share and review it with the owner or senior stakeholder. Once there is agreement that you have a workable plan, a plan that starts with your quota, and then working backwards from there, you can map out critical points, and based on your conversion rates, how many opportunities you should be working on at any given time. We use an Activity Calculator tool, that helps sellers and managers to optimize this process, but only if they A) know the inputs; B) don’t lie to themselves about the numbers they don’t track or know, (e-mail me if you’d like to try it and use it). This exercise will be hard for those who are already lying to themselves by proclaiming “sales is not a numbers game”. Given that quotas and conversions are numbers, and you’ll need those inputs to plan your success.

There are many other lies, one of my favourites is the wireless rep who had to drive a battery across town right at the time he was scheduled to prospect. You can just hear it now, “Ya, I know my pipeline is low, but hey I saved that account by delivering the battery real quick.” I’ll bet no quicker than a $25 taxi could have, while he found new clients to save. But avoiding an Activity he didn’t like called for a good lie.

Once you lie to yourself, it takes no extra effort to lie to others, and once you do that, it’s all downhill. I know it’s easy, but stop lying to yourself about your activities, pipeline or success. Save that for January, when you abandon your New Year’s resolution.

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the-perfect-close

The Perfect Close – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Years ago, I read a stat that suggested most sales people do not read even one sales book a year, and that was before access to sales blogs and curators of blogs, and a host of other sources (of dubious quality). While some may put this off to laziness, it may also be that the “consumer”, here sales people, are more discerning than given credit, and realize that many of the books they ignore are indeed worth ignoring. Like many of their buyers, the discerning seller has grown weary of advice, observations and untested theory, from talking heads who not sold anything in years but their books. Sellers are looking for real world, practical executable insights, by real world practitioner. Which brings us to in The Perfect Close: The Secret to Closing Sales, by James Muir.

the-perfect-closeDon’t let the title fool you, this is not a book full of closing tricks like the Ben Franklin Close or The Columbo Close. It is a straight forward means and process that sellers of all products can implement, without having to resort to pressure or tricks. It focuses on moving the sale from stage to stage in a practical manner, and involves two questions. It can be put into practice by both seasoned veterans of the trade or new comers. The central reason for that is the author, and the fact that he spends his days in the real sales world.

James Muir is a professional sales trainer, author, speaker and coach, who has excelled both as a front line sales rep, and manager, shattering records in the process. One thing all successful people have said, is to model yourself after the most successful in the field. That is you opportunity with James and The Perfect Close. His guidance comes from experience and the school of hard knocks. James has an extensive background in healthcare where he has sold-to and spoken for the largest names in technology and healthcare including HCA, Tenet, Catholic Healthcare, Banner, Dell, IBM and others. Three decades of not just experience, but success, has given James a fresh and practical perspective on what works in real-life and what doesn’t. And now you can benefit directly from that in this book.

The Perfect Close represents the tested and proven best practices for winning in today’s competitive sales world. It picks up where many others leave off. It is easy to say that “traditional” closing techniques do not work and can harm your efforts, James outlines an alternative that works, one that makes your buyer feel educated when buying from you, see you as a true facilitator and consultant, and allow you remain on emotionally higher ground. The bonus is that the approach is a proven and repeatable process for advancing sales that can be used in any kind of sale at any given stage. All this will allow you to close more business, usually in a shorter timeframe.

Beyond the very practical advice and a practical path to execution, the book has something many of the pre-fab pundit produced books lack, passion. James’ passion for sales and helping others sell better comes through in every chapter. This makes it easy for the reader to absorb the solid methods presented. Don’t let the title fool you, this is not a gimmicky close book, it is about the steps sales professionals must take, right from the start, and along the way to win more customers. James outlines the steps it takes to win no matter what you sell, or how long you have been selling. He introduces the “why”, the “what”, and the “how” for each step along the journey. This book is fun to read. You’ll find yourself revisiting elements, each time improving your execution. Buy this book for yourself, your team, and if you have a friend who sells that you would like to see do better. Don’t take my word for it, buy it, read it, enjoy it, implement it, and profit from it!

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Time questions concept as a group of floating clocks and timepieces shaped as a question mark as a metaphor for deadline or business schedule confusion or corporate appointment information as a 3D illustration.

Getting Time On Your Side0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you manage hang on for another week, I assure you that there is life after the election, and what is waiting on the other side is not the end of the world, but the end of your sales year. Which if you plan it right is not as big a deal as many would make you believe, unless of course you’re one of those sales people who exists from crisis to crisis. (If you are, then you can skip the rest of this post).

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, and in this case, it truly is. If you know the specifics of your sales cycle, average length of cycle, critical points, number of interactions (phone, live, web, e-mails, etc.), then you have the data on which you can build knowledge and success. You can map out your sale, manage it and lead the sales process not just go along for the ride.

A critical one is the average length of a cycle. This will vary based on type of sale, if you have multiple offerings, and other factors, but there is no escaping the fact that if you looked at you last 15 – 20 sales of the same nature, you will be able to determine a relative average length. You can do that using your CRM, and host of apps you bought to do something sales professionals have done for ages using pen and paper. The fact that many sales people answer the question about the length of

Assuming your average cycle for a given product or service three months, this is hand shake to close, it doesn’t matter if it took you a year of effort to engage; a sales cycle is handshake (yes it can be virtual), to close. There may be seasonal changes, causing that to contract or expand slightly, but if they are indeed seasonal than they are known to you and you can incorporate that into your thinking and execution.

So, if you initiate an opportunity today, October 31, 2016, then on average, that opportunity will/should close on or around (a couple of days) January 31, 2017. Assuming you need four sales a month to exceed quota, you will need one of those a week. But let’s be real here, you will need to have a multiple of opportunities, based on your close ratio, that is the number of opportunities you require to get one close, say 4:1. You will need to be prospecting (including referrals, up and cross seals and more) at a level and quality that will lead to four prospects/opportunities a week to end up with one close. So if one prospects and drives four new opportunities a week, they will have their one “right” opportunity each and every week. An opportunity that will on average close three months later.

Do this every week and it doesn’t matter if it is the beginning, middle or end of they year, just start four real opportunities a week, and you will close one three months out. That’s why I tell managers to stop asking about what their sales people are closing, and make sure that they what they are opening.

The data is there, the knowledge that affords you is there for you for the taking, what’s missing is the application, which is why as you read all the sage advice on how to end the year, start the year, and all that other noise, just remember, it is all about the execution – everything else is just talk.

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pp2

Stacking Your Productivity0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Earlier this week I posted about the how your sales stack stacks up, (couldn’t resist) How Productive Is Your Sales Stack? Exploring how many companies and sales leaders are actually contributing to their team’s’ lack of success by overloading them with “sales tools”, the “Stack”. While many are sold, and think they are buying “productivity tools”, they are in fact hindering productivity, revenue success and growth. While I have had some interesting feedback, the question comes up as to why this is, and why these folks would continue to invest in things clearly working against them.

To be clear, that is not an opinion, but supported by the data. Which interesting since many of these buyer, and certainly all the people who sell these tools point to data, but as with many things, leveraging data for success is a subjective exercise, allowing people to ignore those data points that don’t support their current opinion. Sorry to confuse the issue with facts.

While on the one hand there is no argument that sales have changed, especially when it comes to tools available for both sellers and buyers, but the motivation for buying those tools is fairly established. Sales leaders are looking productivity, more output from the same inputs, or same outputs with less resources. In the past when VP’s of sales needed more output, their rallying cry was “I need more headcount”, they would employ some Voodoo Economics, and voilà, come up with rationale for additional headcount. These days, they throw technology at it instead. Vendors are happy to supply the case studies, ROI calculators, white papers, and all the rationale one needs to at that next app to their stack.

pp2As they add things, they add complexity, complexity as presented Monday, impacts productivity negatively. What I have seen is that all too often, there is little adjustment to the sales process to integrate the efficiencies captured, it is not reflected in the work-flow or the execution path. It is a cycle that repeats itself again and again. This leads to the decision to add something else to the stack, that final missing magical piece that will change everything.

Going a bit deeper and further, the question remains, why do they need these additional tools, well, the most frequently reason, stated or not, is that their people won’t do things that need to be done if you are going to succeed in sales. No saying they can’t, many can, they won’t and don’t do specific things that are crucial to consistent execution and success. So the easiest thing to do is automate, get some technology that will do it instead. Good plan, clearly not working though.

Some things, like say dialers (sorry accelerators), make sense, but one I saw recently prompted sellers to offer the buyer other SKU’s that other similar buyers have bought with similar orders. Implementing this app, requires integration, new approvals, approval process, etc. Seems to me if McDonald’s can train their counter clerks to if you want fries with that shake, how hard should it be for your team to do that without an app?

In a day where everyone is talking relationships, the importance of people buy from people, and everything that goes with that, the obvious solution to get more sales and reduce complexity, and improve productivity is to invest in the human side of the equation.

Please don’t take this as being against automation, I love it, use it, and live off it. But automation for automation sake, or strictly as a fashion statement clearly does not add to productivity. The sales productivity Holy Grail will continue to elude those who focus on one side of the equation while ignoring the other. Just as in the old days adding body count without proper development, process adjustment, and the right tools did not lead to productivity gains. Nor will adding more and more technology while ignoring its impact on the balance of things, and the ability to of your team to execute. Next time instead of adding more technology, add more development for your sellers, have them sell not just babysit your stack. This will allow those comparing stacks now, to compare results in the future.

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