Yes, you’ve seen these discussion before. Classically, our org charts look something like pyramids. It’s human nature for us to think about career progression moving up the food chain.
Perhaps it’s ambition, perhaps it’s ego, but many seem to capture their self worth in statements like, “I have thousands of people working for me…….” This classic hierarchical approach with the implicit idea of the power managers have over subordinates no longer works (if it ever did). We can no longer expect to tell our people what they need to be doing and expect them to immediately comply.
Then there’s the “servant management” theory of leadership. People subscribing to that theory show the org charts as upside down pyramids, with the concept of leaders serving their people. I think there’s a lot right about this concept, but it has always seemed a little contrived.
What are we a managers supposed to do? We are accountable for achieving our goals, we’re driven by that for our own personal success. But we aren’t the people out on the front lines selling, or designing and implementing a new marketing program, or directly supporting our customers in customer service.
It’s our people that do those things!
The only way we achieve our goals is through our people! The collective results of the work our people do rolls up to us, enabling us to achieve our goals.
It this critical issue that so many in managerial roles miss: Our job is to get things done through our people.
Let’s break this down to see what it really means.
First we have to have the right people to do the jobs for which they are accountable. It’s our job to know the critical attitudes, behaviors, skills, competencies, and experiences necessary for success; then make sure we’ve put the people matching these into the roles.
We have to onboard them, train them, develop them to close any gaps that stand in the way of their success.
We have to set very clear performance expectations, helping our people understand what top performance looks like, so they know what they have to do to meet their goals.
Then we have to provide them the systems, tools, programs, training, processes critical to their success, not only maximizing their performance but helping them to be as effective and efficient as possible.
They’ll stumble, they’ll make mistakes, they’ll try and fail. Here’s where managers coaching their people constantly, helping them learn and improve, helping them constantly develop so they meet our current and future expectations. They provide feedback, to help people grow and become more effective.
Every once in a while, there’s a person who just can’t succeed in the role. Great managers have already done everything they can to coach and develop the person, but for any number of reasons the person just can’t succeed. Managers know they have to step up and take action. They know it’s unfair to the individual, to their team, and to the organization to keep them in a role where they can’t succeed.
Great managers move people from those jobs, doing everything they can to help that individual get a role in which they can be successful—even if it’s not with their current company. For the most part, they aren’t bad people, they’re just in the wrong job.
But the manager’s job isn’t finished with that, there’s much more in helping each person on the team maximize performance.
Great managers remove roadblocks and barriers for their teams. Even the best organizations sometimes make if very hard to get things done. Managers need to help eliminate those, to keep their people from being distracted from what needs to be done to drive success.
The internal complexity of our own organizations is often the biggest productivity drain on our people. Great managers do everything possible to eliminate or radically simply the things that impact their people’s abilities to do their jobs.
Managers have to fight for their teams. They have to get them the support, resources, and everything else necessary for them to perform at their highest levels.
Finally managers recognize and get recognition for their people. They constantly make others in the organization aware of great performances and the accomplishments of their teams.
What I’ve described sounds a lot like “servant leadership.” Perhaps it is, but at the same time it’s pragmatic selfishness. After all, the only way a manager possibly can achieve her own personal goals is if everyone on the team maximizes their performance and achieves their goals.
From a purely selfish point of view, if managers aren’t constantly doing these things, they will fail.
Not long ago, I spoke with a frustrated CEO. His company was doing OK, but somehow not meeting his expectations .
Like many companies, thee customers needs were changing quite profoundly. They were rapidly shifting their solution offerings to match customer needs and to compete. They were investing in new areas, had launched some products to expand the value they could bring to their target customers. But the product sales weren’t taking off as he had expected.
The CEO felt that shifting focus to many of the new products was critical to their future success. He believed, over time, reliance on their traditional product sets would not drive the expected growth, even worse, customer demand for these products would decline.
We talked about sales performance. Sales performance was OK, they were meeting their numbers, but the CEO was still concerned about what was happening.
The VP of Sales and I started analyzing sales performance. We noticed a number of things:
- Traditional products dominated sales. While the sales people had been well trained and were well supported on the new products, they weren’t selling them. They were selling the things that had made them successful in the past.
- Sales to the customers that were generating 75% of their revenue (in this case about 15 percent of their customers generated 75% of their revenue) were flattening, in many market segments there was actually a decline.
- Also new product sales to those major customers was virtually non existent.
- New customer acquisition, particularly in the segments where some of the new products should have been the strongest, was virtually non existent.
- While sales people were making their numbers, the qualitative feedback was that it was getting tougher and tougher.
We scratched our heads wondering what was going on. The new products and some of the new market segments represented the future for the company. These would drive the growth engine, particularly as some of the traditional products went into decline. The VP of Sales had put together strong sales enablement, training and support programs to help sales people become successful in selling these new products, but it wasn’t happening. Sales Management constantly talked about new customer acquisition, particularly in a couple of the segments facing the greatest declines, but it just wasn’t happening.
As I talked to sales people, I saw they were struggling. All of them were saying that it was becoming harder and harder to make their numbers. I asked about the new products and new customer acquisition. The reaction was very predictable.
As the sales people faced increasing difficulty in making their numbers, their natural reaction was to double down on the things they had always done in the past. As it became tougher to succeed, they focused on doing more of what had made them successful in the past.
The problem was, it was becoming harder and harder to be successful.
They were scraping by just making their numbers.
The VP of Sales and I looked at their metrics. The key metric was quota–a revenue target.
We needed to radically change the behaviors of the sales people! If they kept doing what they had always done, pretty soon they would fail. As much as the VP had tried to get the sales people to shift their behaviors through training and some sales contests, they weren’t changing as quickly as they needed to.
We decided to change the sales/performance management metrics. (Well duggh, people do what they are measured to do)
Revenue was still a key driver, but sales people had a couple of other metrics. Their performance would be evaluated by the mix of that revenue. That is, a certain percent of the revenue had to come from the new products. Another percent of the revenue had to come from new customer acquisition.
Revenue was no longer the key metric, the “Right” revenue was critical. We could have changed the comp plan a little to support this, in this case we didn’t–the company had a strong performance management culture, so simply changing the metrics was what was needed to shift behaviors.
Many of you probably thought I was describing your company–I see so many companies facing the same thing.
It’s critical that we align our sales performance goals and metrics with the strategies of our company. If we want to drive changes in focus and behaviors, we have to change the metrics. We have to align our metrics with the strategies and goals of the company.
It’s human nature to continue to do what has caused you to be successful in the past. It’s human nature, when things get tough, to double down on those efforts.
If we want to drive rapid behavioral change with our sales teams, we have to have metrics that are aligned with the changes we want to see–along with the training, programs and support to help people be successful.
People do what they are measured to do. We just have to make sure we are measuring the right things!
We’ve exited the Holiday Season in the US. Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, the New Year are all past, we are anxiously setting goals for the New Year. We’ve probably overindulged, we have the guilt feelings and decide to go back to the gym, maybe hire a personal trainer.
Imagine walking into the gym, looking for a personal trainer. There are two to select from. One’s morbidly obese. He’s planted in a chair–possibly two, he struggles to stand, huffs and puffs to walk you around the gym, can’t demonstrate any of the exercises you should be doing. He starts wheezing, cuts the tour short, you go back to his desk. As he wipes the sweat off his brow, catches his breath, he asks you, “What are your fitness goals, how can I help you, when do you want to start?”
The other one is reasonably fit—not musclebound or a former Olympian, just in reasonably good shape. She walks you around the gym, demonstrates a few exercises that might be helpful, talks about diet, hydration, sleep. Perhaps she gives you the opportunity to try a few things, offering helpful advice about improving your form. Like the other trainer, you go back to her desk, she asks, “What are your fitness goals, how can I help you, when do you want to start?”
Who are you going to choose?
My money is on 99.99% of you selecting the second trainer. Why? Because she’s setting a great example of what you might achieve. She might inspire you to train more seriously, to become much better, and to achieve your goals.
Hold onto that mental picture, let me shift you to my inbox—probably yours as well.
Every morning, it’s filled with dozens of emails from vendors of sales and marketing automation tools or services. They are from respectable, sometimes enormous companies. But they all fit exactly the same pattern.
I’ve randomly chosen one from this morning as an example:
“Hello Dave, In less than 3 minutes (link deleted), transform the way you think about sales learning.
[Video Link Deleted] (yes, the video is a meaningless, “we are the greatest, you need to buy our product.”)
Best Regards, Ashley”
At least it was short, most drone on and on for several paragraphs of drivel! But it’s totally meaningless to me. It doesn’t address challenges we might face, how they might help, why I might want to care. It’s just “see my product, buy my product.”
I get dozens of these from vendors of marketing and sales automation tools every day. Most aren’t personalized, or personalized incorrectly, at least 90% are mis-targeting me, they don’t understand who I am or what my company does, or what we are concerned about. Most focus on inflicting descriptions of their products on me. And of course, I know I will get at least 8 of these emails, usually with (Re: Re: Re: Re;) in the subject line, reminding me of the previous email and asking me to invest my time in letting them tell me about their product.
Many are inevitably followed up by calls from SDRs, all of whom have the singular goal of getting me to accept a demo. They don’t know who I am, what our business is or why we might have a need. They can’t answer most of my questions, they defer them. They just want me to agree to a demo.
As I read these emails, they remind me of the morbidly obese trainer. All of them are the worst possible examples of sales and marketing execution. Most are terrible examples of the use of their own tools.
None of them give me confidence, none of them inspire me by the great examples they set. None of them get me thinking, “Maybe they can help me achieve my goals.”
Instead, they barely manage to cough out the words, “see my product, it’s the greatest, buy my product.”
As I read through these things, I always think, “Is this a great example of marketing and sales excellence?” “Is the way they present, market, and sell themselves, the way they would recommend as outstanding process for us to implement with our customers?”
Every time, the image of this morbidly obese trainer comes to mind. I quickly junk the email (so I can block the 7 that I know will follow), making a mental note to steer as far away as possible (as well as to advice clients to exercise great caution).
If we want to excite people about our marketing and sales automation tools and services, then we should set the highest standard of execution in how we market and sell them. That example and the results produced serve to inspire prospects and customers to think, “Maybe I can achieve the same.”
Which strategy are you executing, are you the morbidly obese trainer, struggling to inspire your customers, are are you the fit trainer, setting a great example of what could be achieved?