As sales professionals, we are responsible for driving revenue growth for our companies. We are accountable for executing our overall corporate strategies and priorities in our chosen markets.
We develop, or should be developing, “go to customer strategies” to achieve our goals. We assess things like our ICP. We look at how to we reach and engage the customers in our ICP effectively and efficiently. We assess our value creation and differentiation strategies.
The strategy will look at things like overall structure and engagement process. Do we leverage channels and partners? Do we sell direct and what the organization we require to support this? Do we leverage electronic/web based channels/engagement?
We look at the people, experiences, skills, and competencies required to support the implementation of those strategies.
We develop strategies, processes, systems, tools, training, programs, and coaching to help us implement those strategies effectively and efficiently (in that order).
Then we execute–we implement all those things we identified and put in place. We execute in a consistent, disciplined, and focused manner.
And all this works–until it doesn’t. One of my favorite commentators on this topic is Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face.”
Inevitably, at some point, we get “punched in the face.”
It’s what we do when this happens that separates high performers from the mediocre.
The mediocre tend to do one or both of two things.
The first is simply, “Do more, work harder.” More is usually defined by activities, do more dials, do more emails, make more calls, double up on everything, drive higher activity levels.” This may work, temporarily, but usually we quickly run into limitations for this strategy and we fail to achieve our objectives. Yet we still focus on increasing volumes and velocities.
My second favorite commentator is Albert Einstein, he categorizes this behavior in the following way, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”
Doing the things that aren’t producing the expected results, doing them at greater volume, doing more is not a success or growth strategy. At best, these strategies buy a little time, but don’t address the fundamental issues impacting our growth.
The second strategy the mediocre embark on is the “bright shiny object” strategy. These leaders and organizations look at what the “cool kids” are doing and blindly copy them. They constantly search for something new, something different, something hot. They believe in miracle cures and silver bullets.
They implement these programs to drive growth and “fix the problems.” But they never finish the job, because something newer, “better,” hotter comes up and they shift to those. These organizations are characterized by constant shifts in direction, priorities, strategies, roles/responsibilities. Nothing is in place long enough to assess whether it works, because the latest bright shiny objects offer the easy path to success.
Inevitably these fail. We never have them in place long enough to figure out how to make them work and what drives success. People suffer from change fatigue, hunkering down, knowing that in a few months a new miracle cure will appear.
Sometimes we implement this bright shiny object strategy by churning people. We don’t like the performance of our current people or think someone else may do better. So we swap them out, until someone else appears, and we go for the “new improved model.”
But we continue the thrashing and search for consistent, sustained performance.
And sometimes, the mediocre organizations try both strategies at the same time. They focus on continued increases in volume and velocity, at the same time changing priorities, focus, methods, tools, etc.
Too many organizations drive change for change sake, not purposefully.
These methods never work–at least for a sustained period of time. Morale plummets, people suffer from change fatigue, they don’t know what the priorities are and what they should be doing. Inevitably, they choose to “stop the insanity,” moving to another organization.
Research data shows the impact of this. We see year over year declines in percent of sales people reaching goal. We see year over year increases in attrition/decreases in average tenure–both at the individual contributor and manager levels. We see year over year decreases in employee satisfaction and engagement–which is ultimately mirrored by our customers.
Yet we continue to do the same things, expecting different results. “Insanity,” as my friend Albert would state.
Consistently high performing organizations are different. This doesn’t mean they aren’t changing, adapting new strategies. But they do this in a disciplined manner.
First, they examine their current strategies, structure, programs, processes, systems, tools, training, programs, and people. They carefully diagnose and assess, “What’s working, what’s not, why…..” Then they look at corrective actions, “How do we make these things work and can they produce the results we expect?”
They know that consistent, disciplined purposeful execution by everyone is what drives success. Everything they do is oriented around reinforcing that discipline.
At points, we reach limits. Market conditions may have changed, our strategies and priorities may have changed. We’ve eked out all the performance improvements we can from the disciplined execution of our current programs.
Great organizations assess the changes they must make. They look at, “What are we currently doing that works, should we keep some elements of those? What new things should we assess to improve our ability to execute our strategies and achieve our goals? What’s it take to be successful in doing these? How do we successfully manage the transition and change effort?”
These changes are always implemented thoughtfully, engaging everyone in the organization in understanding what’s happening, why, and what it means to each of them.
Inevitably, errors are made, but rather than abandoning the changes, these organizations seek to understand what didn’t work, why. They look at what changes need to be done to produce the expected results.
These organizations have confidence they have made the right choices, but have to invest in learning how to make them work.
These organizations are mature enough in their thinking of what drives success that they are never distracted by bright shiny objects and miracle cures.
They know that success and growth is based on doing the hard work. They know they achieve more with disciplined, consistent, committed execution, always seeking to improve their ability to execute and perform.
Success and consistent growth isn’t easy. But the consistent high performers know that it means doing the work, constantly learning, constantly improving, and engaging the whole team in the process.
Sadly, while these principles are obvious and well supported in the literature, research, and the performance we see in great organizations; too few organizations and leaders have the courage and discipline to do the hard work.