Are you suffering from B.S.O.S.?


It’s funny how an expression can emerge from seemingly nowhere into widespread vernacular. I first noticed the phrase “bright shiny object” a few years ago; now it’s all over the place. (Google’s Timeline marks its first occurrence as a syndrome in March 2001: “The annual report has long been disdained as a bright shiny objectunworthy of attention from the serious investor.”)

Unfortunately Bright Shiny Object Syndrome or “B.S.O.S.” seems to be thriving in the world of B2B sales and sales training. It occurs when managers and executives neglect what’s really important because their attention is focused on something new and exciting — just because it’s new and exciting. It also occurs when those same people attempt to fix a known problem with a new and exciting — but highly unworkable — solution.

Sales 2.0 and sales enablement hype cycles

Five or so years ago, early in the Sales 2.0 hype cycle, it was discovered that some shiny new technologies offered false hope to companies seeking a higher degree of sales effectiveness and efficiency. Back then, far too many impatient and tactical sales leaders believed that if they bought the shiny object, they no longer had to worry about dull considerations like sales infra-structure, strategy, process, methods,
the right people in the right jobs, measure-ment, reinforcement, leadership, management and accountability. A similar pattern has emerged with the current sales enablement technology hype cycle. Again, we are being promised that the awesome power of the shiny object will far outweigh a wheelbarrow full of pain-in-the-butt discipline. The reality is, it just isn’t so.

Bright shiny objects are easy. Silver bullets (definitely bright and shiny!), tricks, and shortcuts are exciting and deliciously consumable. They are the high-fructose corn syrup of the sales game — little more than empty calories.

Solutions in action

Doing the right things — taking the necessary steps to building and sustaining sales effectiveness and efficiency — is hard work. Instead of becoming enthralled by the latest razzle-dazzle that in the end won’t deliver, you may appreciate a few examples of approaches that have actually worked:

A software company launched a critical initiative that included process, tools, learning and reinforcement around financial selling capabilities. From that point forward, its salespeople were able to build strong business cases with customers’ senior executives, resulting in closing more business sooner with significantly less discounting. This B2B sales best practice has enabled hundreds of companies to earn competitive advantage in their markets.

The senior sales leader in a media company understood that an investment in sales effectiveness wouldn’t pay any dividends if it didn’t include identifying, defining and meeting their change management needs. After all, any strategic sales effectiveness initiative requires significant business and behavioral change, up, down and across the entire organization. He hired a firm specializing in change management to guide his team through the transformation, successfully employing the right solution to leverage the opportunity at hand.

A small professional services firm found that implementing a formal hiring process made a huge difference with a key business development position. Formerly little more than a revolving door for a parade of ineffective salespeople, the position is now staffed by someone who is successfully driving the geographic expansion specified in the company’s business plan.

How can you determine whether the next bright shiny object will help you achieve your plan or just distract you from embracing what might really work? Research, research, research. Speak to users, analysts, experts, consultants and your colleagues. Ask yourself this question: “If I were using my own money to pay for this solution, would I pull out my wallet?” The answer can be an eye‑opener.

In any case, try to remember that the bright shiny object is the means, not the end. Sales effectiveness is the real goal, and there are many proven, effective, and efficient ways of getting there, however dull they may be.  

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