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In Praise Of Boring Sales Organizations

by David Brock on October 30th, 2018

Over the last several weeks, I’ve seen a similar issue with 4 different companies.  On the surface, each seemed to have a very disciplined approach to developing their teams and driving performance.

Each spoke about the structured review process.  They had pipeline reviews, deal reviews, 1 on 1’s, and others.  I’d been asked to sit in on some of the reviews, helping the management team improve the results from these, as well as to help improve their coaching abilities.

Roughly, 80% of the scheduled reviews were cancelled.  Inevitably, something came up forcing the managers (mostly) and the sales people to cancel the reviews.  Some would be rescheduled, with many of those cancelled.  Some would not, the theory being, “We’ll cover the things we had planned to talk about in the next review…..”

For the few reviews I did observe, most were pretty mediocre.  Neither the managers nor the sales people really took the reviews very seriously.

These behaviors sparked my curiosity.  I started looking back a number of months.  It turned out more than 60% of the scheduled reviews had been cancelled.  Some deeper digging, showed lots of meetings were cancelled.  A “crisis” would arise, people would get diverted to that issue, cancelling regularly scheduled meetings.  In some cases, I suspect people were inventing crises, just to avoid meetings.

Assessing this data, I found:

  1. Their meeting discipline was really bad–probably a result of badly conducted meetings, where people felt they wasted their time.
  2. The managers were constantly shifting priorities as they moved from crisis to crisis.  This created problems with their people, the managers weren’t available, they were managing the crises.
  3. The managers behaviors started to be mirrored by the people.  They suddenly found themselves running around from crisis to crisis.  Not accomplishing a lot, but very busy.
  4. There was relatively no discipline in the organization.  Sales people tended to do their own thing, managers did theres.  They were constantly in crisis mode, there was a lot of wasted time, and while they were making their numbers, it was a constant struggle, and everyone was constantly shifting priorities.  One might have, also, made a claim they were underperforming their potential because of the lack of disciplined execution.

By contrast, high performing individuals and organizations have a different character.  They are relatively structured and disciplined.  While people are very busy, one gets a sense of disciplined and focused execution.  They recognize success has certain patterns, they seek to replicate those patterns.   They look like “well oiled machines.”

A lot of this performance starts with the examples manager set.  They have structured/disciplined approaches to reviews, pipeline, deal, 1 on 1’s and other reviews.  They have a regular cadence that they keep.  They rarely reschedule them.

Instead, the focus on building good habits.  Managers set the example with their review process.  Because they are paying attention to what their people are doing, coaching and developing them, performance is more consistent.  There are fewer crises, there is just quiet disciplined execution.

These high performing organizations actually tend to be very boring.

There are few great dramas, few crises.  There is just quiet, boring, disciplined execution.  People are doing more things right, more consistently–so the things that cause crises generally don’t happen.

This starts with management and their approach to the business, their personal discipline, their commitment to model the right behaviors, and their commitment to engaging their people in well conducted reviews, focused on providing their people the skills of disciplined execution.

It’s not very exciting, it’s quite boring.

Boring is good.

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