The person we have today with us at AppVerticals is the one who is called by his clients a shot of adrenaline for their business and is dubbed as a revenue architect. Dave Wakeman is specialized in helping businesses with their marketing and profitability issues by making them more focused and effective.
He helps businesses reduce their sales cycles, increase the effectiveness in sales prospecting, and increase brand image/personality to enable them to charge premium prices with lesser price sensitivity.
He has helped numerous organizations increase revenues and profits by reinventing their prospecting and operations. Dave is an internationally recognized expert in branding and strategy building, and he regularly gives sessions to platforms like SEAT, business 2 community, and “The Voices of Project Management.”
To contact and get his consultancy services for your business visit Wakeman Consulting Group
We are humbled and obliged that he gave us his precious time and shared his invaluable knowledge. So without any delay, let’s get started with the interview.
AppVerticals: It is an absolute pleasure to host you at AppVerticals, sir. Please tell us more about the consultancy you have been associated with; what are its goals and vision?
Dave Wakeman: My goal is really to help people grow their profitability.
That’s good for businesses, sure. But I’ve often looked at it through the lens that being able to drive profitability helps people gain more security in their careers and lives.
So I focus on profits. I focus on measurable impacts and taking some of the psychobabble out of things that drive your business forward, like branding, marketing, and strategy.
AppVerticals: Revenue generation and profit growth is the real challenge faced by most organizations. What, in your view, are the major obstacles that barriers organizations from achieving their true potential?
Dave Wakeman: I see the biggest obstacle as too many organizations don’t have a real strategy.
Most businesses have things they call strategy, but it isn’t a real strategy. It is a wishlist or a grab bag of things they might do.
Real strategy comes down to decisions.
When I work with businesses, no matter where I might work: nonprofits, entertainment, or professional services, the first thing I emphasize is a need to decide what you don’t want to get distracted by because there is always a new tool, new idea, or new opportunity that you can spend time on.
It is boring to many people because it can feel like everyone is turned on by a new idea, tool, or opportunity.
But the strategy is about making the choice of: “I’m going to do this, but that means I am not going to do this other stuff for now.”
So the major barriers to success begin with not understanding where you will focus your attention and resources consistently.
Secondary drivers of failure or lack of performance come from not understanding your customer and not being clear on your value proposition.
It seems like a lot of businesses have fallen in love with the idea that buying happens by committee.
That may be true in theory, but every committee has a “leader” that drives decisions. And most executives or team leaders have the discretion to buy a product or service to help them reach their goals.
So we need to focus on the person that is really going to make the decision or can authorize the purchase.
As for value proposition, it comes down to a simple question: “Why us and not other alternatives?”
What makes you the right decision?
What makes your option better than the other ones?
You have to know the answer. And it has to stick with your market.
AppVerticals: As a PMP professional, what do you see as mistakes most project managers make in their careers?
Dave Wakeman: There isn’t a one-size fits all answer here, but I see three come up more than any others.
First, being too hands on and micromanaging a project.
Today’s projects are complex. As a PM, you can’t be an expert in everything. So you have to trust your team to deliver on your goals and ideas.
In most cases, they are the experts; let them do the work.
Second, poor communication.
Your communications need to be clear, concise, and easily understood.
Don’t get bogged down with jargon, nonsense, and equivocation.
Make it simple.
Even if everyone is an expert.
Third, no clear direction.
I see a lot of projects flapping in the wind because there isn’t enough clear direction.
Projects change all the time.
What should be clear is the outcome you are working towards. That needs to be set at the outset. If not, challenges seem to follow pretty quickly.
AppVerticals: Which leadership style do you believe suits most organizational structures? What types of leaders have you seen performing successfully in diverse organizations?
Dave Wakeman: I don’t know if there is one leadership style that works in every case.
I’ve seen that all bad leaders fail in their own ways, but all good leaders share a few similarities.
First, they are clear on their vision. They have basic ideas about where they are heading and how they want to see things done.
There are absolutes that are never compromised on.
Second, the best leaders are all good at communicating.
It doesn’t mean being super chatty or charismatic as much as being clear.
If you go back to the above question and my answer on communications, good leaders are clear and easy to understand.
Third, great leaders seem to be able to get everyone to improve or achieve more than they think is imaginable.
This doesn’t mean they are always loved. But you can see people achieve more and get better.
In truth, sometimes getting the best out of your people might mean challenging them in a way they don’t appreciate until afterward.
Finally, the best leaders carry around a sense of respect and responsibility.
They treat everyone around them with respect and ingrain a sense of responsibility in their actions that filter down to the people they lead.
AppVerticals: Most product-based start-ups are unable to create USPs and ultimately fail. What, in your view, is the best strategy for startups whose vision is to be a product-based company?
Dave Wakeman: First, I don’t like the idea of a product-based company because I find that it creates an environment where you have to create a moonshot to find a hit.
I believe the right way to build a product is to start with the customer and work from there.
I chatted with Simon Weber, co-founder of vivenu, a ticketing software company with offices in Germany and the United States. Simon told me about his team’s hundreds of phone calls with potential customers before they built the first line of code.
In marketing terms, that’s called having market orientation. To me, that’s the key to success.
Finding out how to deliver something of value to your market and not building something just because you think they will want it.
You want to put the odds in your favor by figuring out what the customer you want will need.
Regarding USPs, I think that term creates challenges for start-ups because there are so many things in the world now that it is impossible to be totally unique. I prefer the concept of relative differentiation instead of USP.
Relative differentiation is a similar idea but more useful because you consider your customer and the competition. It is a classic marketing tool.
It works like this.
You create relative differentiation by looking at the following:
- What does your customer want?
- That we can deliver.
- In a way that is better than the competition?
I think that’s more valuable for start-ups than trying to build a USP. Because it gives you a chance to actually create something that you can sell to your customers.
AppVerticals: Project managers most time is consumed with many repetitive tasks, which ultimately results in reducing their productivity and focus on achieving real objectives; what possible solution do you see which can help in overcoming this challenge?
Dave Wakeman: I try to batch repetitive tasks.
My biggest help has been being consistent about controlling my calendar and scheduling things that give me the room to get my most important work done.
As for repetitive tasks, I would also challenge folks to audit whether all of these tasks are necessary. As many of us found during the lockdowns when COVID began, we were doing a lot of things simply because that’s the way we’ve always done things.
For me, it is a combination of scheduling my time and making sure that the things I’m doing are really the things that will move me toward my most important work. If the answer is no, I delegate or dump the stuff.
I’m really obnoxious about that.
AppVerticals: Many companies are moving towards inbound marketing rather than direct sales; which one in your view, is more effective?
Dave Wakeman: Inbound marketing seems to only work well for businesses that are selling inbound marketing services.
You need to market. You need to sell.
Your marketing decision is probably the most important decision you will make about your business because that’s where you capture some of the value you’ve created.
Sales is a bottom-of-the-funnel activity.
Your question shouldn’t be about inbound marketing or direct sales.
Instead you should focus on targeting your marketing around:
- Who are we targeting in the market?
- What is our position of relative differentiation?
- How are we going to reach those people?
This leads from branding through to the sales process. They are connected. But you have to begin with the starting point of who the customer is and why are they going to care about us.
If you invest in thinking that through, your sales process should be easier because you speak to real customer needs.
AppVerticals: Each organization is different from one another and sometimes goals are also quite changed, what, in your view, is the best method to identify and align strategies and actions as per your organization’s set goals?
Dave Wakeman: I look at strategy as a top-down thing:
- Corporate Strategy
- Brand Strategy
- Marketing Strategy
Alignment should come because, as a business, you have a vision. You should have a destination in mind.
After you know what your ambition is, you need to do some research.
A good strategy needs research.
Research can come in many forms, like individual conversations, focus groups, surveys, or secondary research, like finding stuff other organizations have done on Google.
The key is to get a grasp on what the market wants.
Then, you go through the process that I outlined earlier:
- Figuring out your target market.
- Knowing your position.
- Figuring out how you are going to communicate that with your target market.
Through that process, you will develop goals.
These goals should be SMART objectives meaning:
Nothing fuzzy. On a certain date, you can look at what you’ve done and go we hit the mark, we missed the mark, or we exceeded the mark.
What did we learn?
What do we do from here?
If you’ve done that, you should be aligned because everything should flow out of your business’s ambition.
AppVerticals: What do you believe is the best way to deal with underperforming resource in a project, even after communicating clearly the expectations and processes?
Dave Wakeman: First, is it a resource or a person?
If it is a person, you must ensure you give them what they need to succeed. If you are, maybe you have the right person in the wrong spot, or something is going on. You’ll need to uncover what is going on.
You need to know why something isn’t working if it is a resource.
There are so many different reasons a project might be going astray that you must spend time understanding why something is happening before you can fix it.
If you don’t know why something isn’t working and aren’t clear on what you need to happen…nothing else will really matter.
AppVerticals: Technology is reshaping all fields, and project management is no different. What tools would you like to recommend for streamlining operations better?
Dave Wakeman: I actually think the number of tools is overwhelming and probably contributes to project failure.
To me, the tool that I would suggest people get really comfortable with is the phone. Make a phone call before you do anything else. See if the solution to your issue can’t be resolved one to one first.
It is too easy to default to a meeting, a tool, or another solution when a quick conversation often clears up a lot.
So, I’d actually start by decluttering my tools before I even began looking for a new one.
AppVerticals: Constant learning is now a must for growing and performing in any field. How do you keep learning as a habit in your schedule?
Dave Wakeman: I read every day.
I also schedule learning into my calendar, taking classes on project management, marketing, branding, and strategy throughout the year.
Without as much commuting, I do listen to podcasts less. But I also try to use podcasts to learn topics.
Like a lot of things, I schedule this time into my calendar.
AppVerticals: What is your secret recipe for maintaining a work/life balance, and what hobbies have you adopted?
Dave Wakeman: Ha!
My calendar. I’m really tough on allowing people access to my calendar.