Thoughts on creating a high-performance environment; if you don’t want to leave it to chance.
How many of you have ever watched the Simpson’s on TV? Love them or hate them, I fell off the chair laughing when Homer gave this piece of advice to Bart “If you really want something in this life you have to work for it. Now quite; they’re about to announce the lotto numbers”. How many of you check your numbers and dream about how all your problems would be solved if you won the lotto. All you need is some psychic to give you the 6 numbers for success.
As sales professionals or sales leaders, we sometimes wish that we could magically create a culture and environment that like the lotto made us an overnight success. Our pipeline is oversubscribed, closures rates are well ahead of expectations, customer satisfaction is at an all-time high and profitability is above target. Well imagine if someone, purporting to be a “sales psychic”, was to tell you that you could achieve such overnight success and that the only numbers you needed were
17, 5, 18, 20, 12, 19
Would you give them a go? Sure, you might be sceptical. Yet the chances are you would be prepared to try them. Well, today may be your lucky day with a 100% guarantee that this combination will work. Having worked with sales teams over the past 13 years I am amazed by the number of sales professionals who said they radically improved performance, leaving nothing to chance and winning every time by adopting these simple guidelines towards creating a high-performance environment. So what are the ingredients present in sales relationships and sales teams that make them high-performance?
Reality is ball number 18. I am challenging you to look as honestly as possible at the sales environment that you operate in. Are all stakeholders looking at the same issues and calling them by the same name? Do we truly understand why we are winning sales, or why we are loosing them? Do we fully appreciate why others are selling or managing better than us? Are we honest enough to admit our shortcomings? Are we seeking outside perspectives from others who have no agendas and are not emotionally attached to the situation? Sometimes we prefer to say that sales were lost because of customers being stupid, having the worst territories, poor delivery by the service department, lack of proper pricing by the company or better products from the competitors. The sales person gives their reasons for failure. The manager sees these as excuses. When challenged to change their mind or prove that there is no need to do so, both parties get busy on the proof.
In a high-performance environment, everyone explores, admits and agrees on reality; so are you truly prepared to “get real”?
Empowerment is ball number 5. This has to be the most overused word, the most misunderstood concept and least apparent process in sales teams today. We empower ourselves to the extent that we feel confident that we have the self-mastery and efficacy to do our job to the standard expected from ourselves.
As sales professionals or sales leaders, we know we have the skills, drive, energy and personal power to do the job expected. In a recent survey carried out in the US, only 40% of sales people felt that they were in the right job for them, that they had the personal motivation to do what the management team expected of them and that they had the relevant skills to complete the job. The bad news for sales professionals is that 60% of you are square pegs in round holes and wishing they were in other jobs. You are probably under greater stress to perform in a role that is not best suited to your profile. So, what is the bad news for sales leaders? You probably already have a good idea who is contributing to your team objectives and who are your poor performers. You probably spend a significant amount of your physical time and worry on those individuals. Amaze can help you carry out an interesting 20-minute exercise to determine “cost of poor performance”. You might be horrified by the answer but as the Chinese proverb says that “wisdom comes by calling things by their right name”
Solving problems is represented by ball 19 and is a key competency in a high-performance environment. Whether we are solving issues on behalf of our customers or addressing internal shortcomings in our organisation, out ability to solve problems is what differentiates the great from the
The Shewhart cycle (promoted more recently by Demming) is a structured approach which helps introduce better work practices.
- Discover the problem as a gap between the current situation and the desired future state (ACT).
- Invent useful strategies (Plan).
- Produce results (DO)
- Evaluate results against the original problem (Check).
As a sales leader or sales person, do you feel you have the authority or skills to use a process like this to address some of the problems you are currently facing? If your answer is no, then you are not
working in an empowered environment and chances are you are a long way away from operating in a high performance environment. The extent to which you are encouraged to solve these problems yourself, to offer recommendations that are implemented, to devise ways of addressing these issues in the future, is another measure of how high a performance environment you are operating in.
Uniqueness is ball number 21. I am reminded of the part of the film “The Life of Brian” where the whole crowd responded together “we are all individuals”. We are recruited by organisations for the individuality that has served us well in the past, and then encouraged to blend in with the culture that has evolved. How many times have we seen colleagues shunned because they were thought to be different? The term maverick is usually reserved for the most individualistic of our colleagues. However, think of the person on your sales team who is the most successful when evaluated by customers and management? Think about how they deal with internal staff? How do they solve problems? How do they communicate with customers and management? Chances are they are seen as different and unique. Sometimes it is merely their ability to uniquely execute simple tasks repeatedly in an excellent fashion. But the one comment that can be attributed to them is that they are “unique”.
The extent to which you are encouraged to be yourself, to draw on what makes you different, to build on the factors that have made you a success heretofore, to be communicated to in a manner that is meaningful to you, to be listened to and accepted is a real measure of the quality of the high-performance environment that you are operating in.
Links are represented by lotto ball number 12. There are a number of links to consider here. As a salesperson, how strong is the link between your customers and yourself? As a manager, do you allow your direct reports to make decisions about their roles? Are links formed between what you value as a person and what the organisation can offer you? Money may be what we are paid at the end of the month, but do those we work with know the link that really motivates us, that makes us get out of bed in the morning and personally motivate ourselves to achieve? Are the tasks and roles that we perform strategically linked to what the organisation is trying to achieve, and do you understand and fully accept that link? The stronger the linkage, the stronger is the bond between ourselves and the role we have. This leads to a greater desire, commitment and personal motivation to achieve success.