I’m a huge fan of Dave Brock’s blog, in the same way I’m a massive fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes. They’re both prolific “crankers out” of really good material; Dave on sales, Jerry on…everything else. They leave me with that awed, satisfied and slightly envious sense of “That’s so true! Why didn’t I think of that!?”

Dave and Jerry are on my mind because Dave’s recent post “Tell Us Your Top Business Challenge” is particularly good, and “Is This Anything?”, Seinfeld’s anthology of jokes, just showed up from Amazon.

Don’t click through to the blog yet…If I’m being honest, it may be a better investment of your time than reading what follows here. But hear me out.

Dave shares a principle central to the Challenger approach, and, frankly, he articulates it as well as WE ever have. He talks about getting a marketing email from a telecom company – it’s an empty business speak-a-thon that’s too lazy to provide any perspective and just asks the reader, “Tell us your top business challenge” with the hope of somehow tying it to what they have to sell.

I’m reminded of Kramer on Seinfeld answering for Movie Phone, “why don’t you just tell me what movie you want to see?”

As Dave points out, this is a strange question.

“That’s the problem with asking our customers to tell us their business problems and challenges. If they can identify them, they already know what they are doing to solve them. If they have a problem that requires them to buy some products or services, they probably have alternatives they are considering. So we create no value in having them talk about something they are already addressing.”

What Dave hits on here is the sales “experience” or – in this case – the lack thereof. Our original Challenger research showed that a powerful sales experience is the primary driver of customer loyalty and a willingness to buy and buy more often (remember the old 53% number?).

Dave exposes the real problem with a bad experience – the whole thing is boring. The message does nothing to make the customer care. Emails like this are lazy and sloppy.

A bad sales e-mail is like a comedian on stage reading a casserole recipe. Despite churning out dull content that degrades the sales experience, we wonder why customers don’t seem that interested in coming back for more.

The best part of Dave’s piece is the recommendation: “We create greater value, consequently greater opportunity for both the customer and us, when we come to them with insights, observations or ideas…These needn’t be earthshaking changes or observations, we don’t need to solve the business version of world peace, hunger or even COVID. They can be relatively simple observations.” The emphasis, here, is mine.

This is Challenger to the core. Teach them something new and give them a reason to take action. But I love the nuanced idea of just adding a bit of “simple observation” to an already appreciated fact.

It can sound like:

“I’ve noticed you do things this way…”

“We’re seeing a lot of other organizations doing this…”

“We’re seeing these trends in the market…”

We often overthink what’s needed for commercial insight, and it stresses us out. So, we opt out of the game and default to something easy that we know won’t work, such as a pitch about us.

Bringing good perspective requires heavy lifting; it takes time, energy, brainpower and research. But is there a better alternative, particularly these days? No, there isn’t. The trick is to start small, practice and keep getting better and better.

It’s a lot like comedy and what great comedians do. They find a “hook” (an idea) and they work their perspective into it. That’s what makes it catchy, funny, and clever. It’s amazing how adding just a touch of point-of-view can turn a not-so-interesting fact of life (say Mad Cow Disease) into a laugh out loud bit. Jerry Seinfeld is a master of this.

“What I love about the Mad Cow Disease is we of course attempt to blame it on the cow. ‘It’s not our fault, these cows are crazy.’…We show them sliding down these slippery ramps all out of control…And the cows are probably, ‘Oh sure, you’re drinking me, eating me, wearing me, sneaking up on me and tipping me over, and I’m the one who’s off.’”

Before you jump over to the blog post, I want to thank Mr. Brock, as always, for his great mind and insights. As he says, and the Challenger approach validates, let’s start by bringing some simple observation and point of view to the sales experience. Like a good joke, landing it right will make customers glad they decided to pay attention.

Spencer Wixom

Spencer Wixom

Spencer is Chief Customer Officer at Challenger, and has helped transform sales and marketing teams in some of the biggest and best companies in the world.