The Good or The Bad – What Defines Us?

As most of you know, I had a terrible customer experience last week.  I lamented about it here. Unfortunately there has been no change in the situation. I have not been able to connect with the client and it looks like I will be unable repair the relationship. As I shared in the post, It’s eating me alive.

In spite of the tribulations, I received an email from another client last week with a far more pleasant tone. He was copying me on an email request he’d received from his director of sales. His director had asked the question, “How did you come to the decision to hire Jim Keenan?” Below was his response.


Keenan – Brad asked me to recap how I came to the decision to hire you to help Fathom.  I copied you so you could add some color to the discussion for the benefit of Brad and potential learning as you see fit.

Brad –  Knowing Jim is a sales expert, I shared some of the challenges we were having after losing Bill as I tried to support the team through the transition.

Keenan mostly listened and from time to time would ask very insightful questions that caused me to realize I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

He listened as I explained how I initially thought our problem was mainly a matter of data and accountability.  I believed we had a good core team, but was uncertain about the new BDMs we had hired.  My theory was if we had visibility on where leads were coming from and better tracked them through disposition, we would discover why we were not hitting plan and be better able to hold the new hires accountable.

Keenan asked me about our sales pipeline stages, asked about how we established and tracked commitments, our selection criterial for new BDMs, how we got feedback from prospects, how we qualified leads, and whether or not we were getting any feedback about how our offerings were being received in the market place. At a high level, it became clear there were many fronts to this issue that needed to be explored including 1) team production, 2) leadership 3) market & product viability and 4) lead gen and marketing.

Through his questions, he educated me on many questions I should be asking but wasn’t, including…

  • Do we have a sales process that supports the team and measures prospect movement towards a buying decision (important), or does it mostly measure sales team activity that may not correlate with prospects movement towards a buy (not important).
  • Do we have visibility into how each BDM’s pipeline is doing, BDM’s plans to achieve commits, and BDM’s ability to  predict and make accurate monthly commits?
  • What kind support do the BDMs need to find success (this ultimately led to hiring Jeff, revamping our marketing efforts and philosophy on purchased leads).
  • Has the market changed making our offerings less viable (turned out to be less of an issue, but we have still innovated much here)
  • What is our BDM selection criteria and does it fit our market and offerings ? (lead to understanding that we greatly evolved from transactional sales to highly consultative sales and we needed to consciously support this big change)
  • Several others as well…

Ultimately by using his expertise to ask great questions, Jim helped me get more clear on what my instincts were telling me.  I knew we had issues to deal with.  Keenan made it clear to me that the challenges may be more entailed than I thought.  He also made it clear that he was an expert and had lots of experience dealing with these types of challenges.  Finally, he offered to directly help me (after I asked if he would help first).  He then came in and specifically assessed what the nature the issues were. And last but not least, after he did that with a high level of certainty (after only about 45 days of consulting), he was willing to lead the implementation of the changes we clearly had to make as our interim Sales leader which he also did with great success.


As a true expert, Keenan could talk the talk, but more importantly, he could walk it.  That’s powerful and why I’m a “net promoter” for him.

It was flattering to read this email and a nice reminder that staying focused on your customer pays off. Last week was a tough week for me emotionally. I was fired from a client and lost a relationship I truly valued.  But, this email certainly helped to cushion things.

The learning for me was, we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to screw up. It’s inevitable, but our mistakes don’t define us. We, (our person and our companies) are a lot more complex than one bad OR on good experience. The goal is to make sure the good outweighs the bad and to do all that we can to fix the mistakes we are ultimately going to make. It’s how we accomplish this goal that will define us. It’s the sum of it all that matters and as long as we’re in the positive we’re doing OK.

Thanks to those of you who reached out with support, and resolution ideas. It was greatly appreciated. This community is kicks ass!