One of the things that separates top performers, individuals and organizations, apart from everyone else is the consistency of execution.
Consistency of execution has 3 core elements.
- Knowing the right thing to do to drive the expected results.
- Doing those things consistently, day after day.
- Continually sharpening them, improving executions (As Stephen Covey would say, “Sharpening the saw.)
At an individual level, sales people may have remarkably similar backgrounds, experiences, capabilities. They’ve gone through exactly the same training, they are using exactly the same tools. But there are real differences in performance. There are differences in “make up,” and basic characteristics that drive individuals that impact performance, but one of the most basic differentiators is consistency of execution.
We’ve all experienced moments of inspiration and brilliance. We’ve all seen and personally experienced spectacular performances at one time. A sales call, perfectly executed, that exceed both our and our customers’ expectations. A deal strategy perfectly executed–aligned with the customer buying process, the customer is engaged, we are addressing their issues, creating value, addressing competitive issues, helping move it forward until, ultimately, we get the order.
If we’ve been selling for some time, we’ve probably been through a lot of training, we’ve read some books, we have some experiences under our belts. We know what we should be doing. We know what creates success.
Often, the only difference in performance becomes consistency of execution. Top performers do the right things with the right people at the right time more often.
When I speak with top performers, they always have a “formula.” And they stick to it. They may not know how to express it, but they know what it is. They know, “I have to do this many prospecting calls this week to make my numbers.” They’re driven less by the goal management has set, but they have internalized their personal experience, they know what works, and the do it every time.
Likewise in qualifying opportunities, they know what to look for, they know how to listen to what’s said and not said. Every time the qualify a prospect they go through the same mental checklist.
Regardless of what it is–planning a call, developing a deal strategy, improving share in their account, managing their pipeline, they know what works, and they do it consistently–almost reflexively.
By contrast, others know what works, but they don’t do it. Perhaps they forget. Perhaps they are looking for shortcuts. Perhaps they are distracted or disorganized. Every so often, things come together and things work exactly as they should. I think back to Hannibal, the Colonel on the A-Team — the movie — saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.
The worst performers are more likely to be oblivious to what they’ve done. Better performers probably recognize it, but then they move on to the next thing, forgetting what created the success.
Instead of doing what has worked in the past, they may start doing the right things, but get diverted, lose focus, or forget.
Everyone knows, the sales process works. If we follow the sales process, we are increase our ability to win, we connect more effectively with the customer. But we get rushed or we get distracted by other things, so we start skipping steps, or making it up.
Everyone knows, pre-call research and planning works. But we were distracted by doing something else, find we aren’t prepared, but figure we can shoot from the lip, getting by.
As managers coaching our people, we need to keep focusing on consistency of execution. We need to catch our people doing things right, reminding them of what happens when they are doing those right things. We have to sit down, going through their past wins, analyzing them, looking at the patterns, then start replicating them.
Athletes do this all the time. They focus on the right things, practicing it over and over until it becomes “muscle memory.” Whether it’s perfecting a golf stroke, a tennis serve, a swimming stroke, hitting a base ball, passing a soccer ball. They strive to get their minds and bodies to execute consistently, almost reflexively.
Organizations are not dissimilar. Effective organizations don’t necessarily have the best strategy, but they have the best and most consistent execution. We see thousands of organizations have moments of brilliance. They bring the right products to the right customers at the right time. They develop and grow the right customers. They bring on the right people. They make the right investments.
But then they fade. They aren’t able to repeat of sustain the performance. It’s not a strategy issue, it’s the inability to execute consistently. To be always firing on all cylinders.
As organizations struggle, too often, they don’t examine what caused them to be successful. Instead the create “strategies du jour.” Trying something today, never giving it a chance, jumping to something new tomorrow. They never stick with something long enough to learn what works and what doesn’t. They never recognize those patterns of success, replicating them and growing their experience base.
Some of the highest performing organizations aren’t those that are first to the market. They don’t necessarily have the hottest most exciting products. They may not be in high growth markets. They may, in fact be a little boring. They know what works and they do what works every day.
As an individual, you already know what works. You know what you should be doing and the right way to do things. Are you doing them every day, day in day out? Are you doing them when you encounter resistance–you know executing consistently always helps you overcome obstacles.
As a managers, are you continually coaching your people, looking for that consistency that drives sustained performance. The worst thing you can be doing is shifting priorities, changing direction. Look for the patterns that drive success in each individual and the organization as a whole. Keep doing them, sharpen the execution, get it to be “muscle memory.”
The final element of consistency in execution is sharpening the saw. It’s constantly trying to improve what you are doing. It’s building on the base of successful experience but trying to do better. Whether it’s shortening a sales cycle, reducing number of calls to close, improving the impact of each meeting. Organizationally, it might be improving communication and alignment, improving hiring, creating better customer experiences.
Top performers are always tinkering, building on what has worked, trying to improve.