Exceptional Pattern Recognition

March 4, 2015

I wrote Obsessive Learning/Relentless Execution as a start of a series on what sets the very best performers apart from everyone else. Periodically, I’ll be adding more articles, as well as video interviews of some of these people (so you can see what makes them tick.)


Amy Chang, CEO of Accompany**, is one of those exceptional performers. On reading the article, she sent me a comment describing much of what connects the learning–execution pieces. She described it as Exceptional Pattern Recognition.


It’s an exceptional talent we see in the very top performers in any feel. They look at the same things everyone else is looking at, but see things differently. They see patterns in markets, what people are doing, what’s happening. They are able to connect what to many of us seem to be disparate, unrelated things, see them differently, add a spark of an idea, and create something new. They not only look for what’s there, but they also look for what’s not there, patterns in the voids, gaps, or holes give us opportunity to innovate, invent, and build entirely new things.


Pattern recognition is really a key concept–more important everyday with data/information/change overload.


One of the real challenges all of us face is knowing what’s important, what’s meaningful, what do we need to pay attention to? Without the ability to sift through all the information we need to deal with or how to figure out when you are in the middle of executing, what’s the most important thing to do now.


Top performers seem blessed with the capability of absorbing huge amounts of information, constantly, and sorting though it, connecting the dots and focusing on what’s important to achieving their goals. They excel at figuring things out, focusing on them, and executing.


But there are some tools that make this easier for the rest of us to sort through everything we face every day and doing those things that enable us to achieve our goals. Too often, however, we ignore them, consequently making things more difficult for ourselves and our customers.


Here are a few ideas:



  1. Our sales process: Someone’s done all the heavy lifting for us, they’ve looked at our company’s collective experiences in winning and losing. They’ve extracted the patterns that create success, outlining them in our sales process.
  2. Our sweet spot: Like the sales process, our sweet spot represents the customers that have the problems our company is the best in the world at solving. Clearly, focusing on those customers drives our success, selling outside our sweet spot causes our win rates to plummet.
  3. Leveraging personas: Understanding the key personas involved in selecting our solutions, what drives them and how we most effectively engage them. Fortunately, marketing has done the heavy lifting on this. They’ve done the research, they understand the drivers, ideally, they’ve provided meaningful content to help us engage them.
  4. Facilitating our customer buying processes: In complex B2B sales, our customers don’t often go through solving these problems, organizing themselves to buy, aligning priorities, agendas, defining the problem, evaluating alternative solutions, selecting, justifying, and selling the solution internally. They struggle with doing this, which is why so many decisions result in no action or no decision made. But we are involved with many customers every day. We know what they should be doing, how they should be organizing and aligning ourselves. Leveraging our experience of going through similar situations dozens of times every year, we know what they should focus on, what others do, and the things that lead customers to successful outcomes.
  5. Developing and delivering Insights to our customers: Insights are nothing more than seeing things our customers may not see. Possibly, because they are so busy, they don’t take the time to look around. Possibly because it’s very far outside their experience base so they simply are unaware. Possibly because they aren’t aware of new innovations and opportunities. We can help them see and take advantage of these opportunities. Help them recognize patterns, they may simply be blind to.
  6. Ideal partner profile/partner enablement programs: If we deal with partners or channels, we have a long history of who our customers buy from, what types of partners produce the best results, what things we need to do with them to produce success. If we haven’t taken the time to understand this, then our likelihood of success is very low, but if we analyze things, looking at the patterns, the combination of a number of sometimes disparate things, we can characterize the profiles of the partners that are most likely to be successful with us, as well as the things we need to do to help them be successful.
  7. Ideal sales candidate profile: Understanding the characteristics of those people that perform the best, the backgrounds, experiences, attitudes, behaviors, competencies and so forth —the profile of our most successful performers help us recruit the people that are most likely to be successful.
  8. Well defined on boarding programs: A well defined onboarding program is based on understanding what drives success in the shortest period of time. We look at our top performers, we look at past errors and great things we’ve done to help people perform in the shortest time possible. If we haven’t taken the time to do this, then we need to, so we maximize the probability of success and shorten ramp time for our people.
  9. Coaching and developing our people: Each of us has certain patterns of behavior. We have attitudes, views, ways we do our jobs every day. Sometimes those patterns serve us well, sometimes they don’t–or we are missing things and can do better. As coaches, it’s our job to help our people recognize those patterns. We can help them recognize those things that create great outcomes, that cause us to learn and grow. We can help them recognize those patterns that don’t serve them, our customers, or our organizations, changing them and improving.
  10. Understanding our relationships and the relationships our customers have: Leveraging our networks, seeing what’s important to each person in our network, figuring out if there is something we can do for them. Understanding who may be connected with who, how we might leverage those. Connecting dots between people, what’s happening that impacts them, who they know. Trying to figure out how we can enrich and create greater value in those relationships. Figuring how we might leverage those for referrals to more effectively connect with others. (For exceptional insight on this, see the note below on Amy’s company–Accompany.**)

I’ll stop here, I hope you are starting to see the pattern I’m developing here (sorry couldn’t resist). Analyzing past performance, understanding what works, what doesn’t work. Understanding our customers, our people, and our organizations— and how we create shared success–as well as those things that cause us or them to fail. Looking not only at what they are doing, but also what they are not doing, or what they may be missing. All of these are basically forms of looking at patterns, and designing our work to focus on those patterns that best serve us.


It doesn’t take the rare talents of exceptional pattern recognition. All it takes is paying attention, being aware, being curious, leveraging the power and experience of everyone in our customers and our own organizations.


Pattern recognition/analysis serves to help us understand disruptive forces that adversely impact the results we are trying to achieve. When the things that we do every day are no longer working, when those patterns that had been successful, no longer are, it’s a call to action. Something’s changed!


Continuing to do those things, producing the wrong results is foolishness. (Thanks Albert Einstein for helping us understand this.*)


This is what the truly outstanding performers, like Amy, tend to see. They see the patterns, they tend to see the holes in the patterns that might be occupied (which could be very disruptive to others). see. They do it in real time. But the rest of us can do similar things, leveraging tools, processes, and data we already have.


But we can also do what Amy and others do, we can amp up our performance and our ability to see patterns where others see chaos or nothing by being obsessive about learning and discovering. Whether we harness that, focusing on our customers and their markets, our companies and strategies, or simply what’s happening in the world around us. Constant, obsessive learning, then taking action, learning from that is the secret to top performance.


Do you recognize the important patterns that impact your customers and your business?


Are you leveraging these patterns to consistently produce the outcomes you want?


Are you recognizing when the patterns are changing, or you need to break them?


* For those of you who don’t know Albert Einstein’s quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.” Perhaps second to his general theory of relativity in terms of important contributions he’s made.


** For those of you who don’t know Accompany you need to get on their Beta List. Accompany is developing a game changing application to the market. Part of it is really about pattern recognition and our relationships. They are tackling the very challenging problem of “How do we recognize things that are happening to people most critical do us?” “How do we recognize disruptions impacting those people we work with, leveraging them in our engagement process?” It’s probably one of the most important tools I’ve seen in helping us connect with the right people, at the right time, engaging them in the most impactful conversations. But, (truth in advertising time), I’m very biased, I’m on their advisory board. I use their tool every day and couldn’t imagine not having it.

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