Thursday, December 19, 2013

4 Rules for Strong B2B Sales Performance


In AntiFragile, author Nassim Taleb explains what companies can do to lower their risks of catastrophic events, despite prevailing complexities and uncertainties in sales and beyond.

Firms that thrive on uncertainty benefit more when they’re right, than harmed when they’re wrong. If you are looking to minimize risk and increase the resilience of your sales performance, here are four rules for being "Antifragile":

1. Learn from trial and error

Taleb contends that companies that learn are buffered from making big mistakes. They exploit small errors by detecting and fixing them fast. When every trial gives you info on what doesn’t work, you start zooming in on a solution. Trials that fail let you figure out where to go, one step at a time.  In practice, such trial and error makes high performance a logical result of learning that’s incremental and personalized.

2. Focus on reducing risks rather than prediction

When predictions fail, there’s often a call for better forecasts. Taleb contends this is a flawed response when the situation is complex or uncertain. We’ve come to rely on technologies that have errors and interactions that are harder to estimate or predict. When you’re dealing with situations fraught with uncertainty, you’re far better off modifying your exposure than honing your calculations.

3. Measure the chain of effects

To avoid risks of big mistakes, there’s a need to avoid what Taleb calls, “Confirmation fallacies that show what has worked without a complete picture of what’s worked and what’s not worked." Spotting and fixing small mistakes requires an approach to measuring performance that broadens the picture, reveals what needs fixing, and confirms that the fix really fixed things in the full chain of effects. This requires more organic feedback mechanisms that help us sense faster, and with greater granularity, when we have an error to correct.

4. Focus on bad practices instead of best practices

Don’t look for the path to the big win. Look for early signals that you’re on a path to a loss and fix associated mistakes. This is akin to the Moneyball future of B2B sales management…the Oakland A’s out-performed expectations by avoiding being struck out at home plate. By getting on base, the team left themselves in a position to still score runs. Put another way, if you want better outcomes, focus less on improving predictability and more on modifying your exposure to errors that could produce a big, negative, event [like a deal that unexpectedly didn't close].

How are you de-risking the uncertainties of your revenue performance? How has it affected your sales management practices and the revenue growth you’ve achieved?