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A simple, but important, rant

Warning: This is going to be a bit of a rant.

I once had a conversation with a senior executive in charge of sales at a large supply company. It didn’t go so well.

For starters, he was under tremendous pressure to drive a turnaround. North American sales had stagnated and the company was getting hammered by competitors. In fact, he had just spent $1M with a famous consulting company to get his strategy defined and ready to execute (note: nothing had executed yet).

Additionally, he had bought into the idea that he already knew everything, so talking with a consultant like me was, to him, something he was only doing because he had been asked to.

But the real sign that the conversation was not going to go anywhere was when we started talking about the problem he was trying to address. His first response was, “Problem? We don’t have any problems here.”

I quickly countered, “Fine. You just spent one million dollars with McKinsey. Why did you do that?”

“Oh, well, we need to get the business to… oh, you’re good.”

Sigh. This is not the kind of dialogue I enjoy.

To jump ahead, I told him that all of his efforts needed enable sales conversations. If those conversations didn’t happen, it didn’t matter what technology/process/training/marketing materials/compensation plan/etc. he was going to implement.

“So, how does your strategy enable sales conversations?” I asked.

His response? “I really don’t know, but I just spent a million dollars and I’m going to start there.”

Facepalm.

And THIS is what’s wrong with most of the organizations I see. They are led by leaders who don’t know how to grow their business outside of generating new innovation. They deploy resources where they think they should go based on past habits and trendy business articles. They haven’t studied how healthy organizations create powerful sales engines. IF these leaders ever sold in their lives (and that’s a big IF), it was likely years ago when the economy – and their customers – were drastically different.

Sigh.

So, why am I ranting today? Because I want to see the narrative change. I want to see businesses thrive. I want to see people who are excited to go to work because sales are UP and the business is GROWING. I want to see delighted customers who think their suppliers are awesome and great to work with.

And if you are reading this, you VERY likely feel the same way. You want to see your company experience all of the above – and more. You see the disconnects and the self-inflicted wounds your company is experiencing. You know the leadership gap exists and you want to tackle it.

But the battle is just that – a battle. There’s chaos in the air and the ground is shaking.

Simply know this: I’m grateful to be able to share the foxhole with you. We’ll get there. I will do my best to give you the tools and arguments you need to change mindsets. And I am here to respond to your own rants and offer whatever support I can.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

Something to learn from the World Cup

Many would never guess, but I actually played soccer in college. I wasn’t great, but I was good enough to walk on and play defense (Left Fullback, thank you very much).

Of course, this means that I am one of the few Americans who actually watch the World Cup with a moderate level of interest.

All of the ridiculous flopping aside, there has been some beautiful football played this year (and yes, I use football and soccer interchangeably – viva, ‘Merica). And the thing that I am attracted to most is actually a perfect analogy for sales.

For me, watching the ball move is mesmerizing. To see the perfect dribbling and passing, the subtle touches and flicks that redirect the ball toward the goal, and even the feints and fake moves that don’t touch the ball at all… It requires a massive amount of coordination. And it’s why the world calls it “the beautiful game.”

In sales, we have the exact same dynamic.

The work that a great team will perform, when done in unison, is mesmerizing. The coordination of each team mate – from Sales to Marketing to Ops – to develop and deliver value is my favorite part of business. To see a customer delighted is the equivalent of celebrating a goal.

What is the secret to great ball movement AND great selling?

To paraphrase the hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, it’s moving to where the ball is going – not where it is.

In soccer, I can tell when a team is doing well or not by how they move to where the ball is going to be. Teams that only move to where the ball currently is positioned are either getting pushed backward or getting out-maneuvered by the other team. It’s a recipe for failure.

In sales, the same principle holds true. We have to move to where the customer (and thus, the sale) is going to be.

Here is where it gets tricky because success requires a number of things:

  • Clarity – Everyone needs to know everyone’s role. If the goalie is not clear on what his role is, what does that to do to the rest of the team? If the sales rep is not clear on what her role is, what does that to do to the rest of the team?
  • Timing – Get there too early and you’ll stall the game; get there too late and your competition will take over.
  • Knowledge of the Environment – If the stadium is loud/wet/windy/etc., how will the game change? If the market is being disrupted by pressures and trends (like AI, IoT, generational shift, etc.), how will your customers be impacted?

Question: How well do you and your team mates know where your customers are going?

Deeper question: How far into the future are you looking?

If you and your team are not spending time to truly understand where your customers are going and acting accordingly, your game is hurting. And you won’t win the championship.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

The difference between work and a job

Do you know the difference between “work” and a “job?”

I ask because sometimes we forget.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the daily/weekly/quarterly grind that a job entails.

Sometimes, we forget that our work is supposed to be fulfilling, impactful, and downright fun.

That’s not to say that it isn’t hard or challenging. The best work often is.

That’s because work has purpose. Jobs don’t.

Or rather, jobs fulfill someone else’s purpose. But not our own.

And purpose is the fuel of excellence. It’s the lifeblood of any high-performing team. And it’s why you were created.

To do something. To be someone. To serve in ways only you can serve.

So, why the philosophical rant on a sales enablement blog?

Simple. Do your team mates know that they have purpose?

Do your team mates work to serve or to survive?

Do they work out of a sense of purpose or out of a sense of obligation? Or worse – just for the paycheck/retirement/fill-in-your-own-blank?

If you are a leader (and if you can make anyone else special, you are a leader), you have a responsibility to drive purpose into your team. But not your purpose. That’s egotistical.

When I say you need to drive purpose, I mean a shared purpose. A common purpose. Something that draws everyone together based on the YOUR understanding of the team and what drives EACH player.

This is great leadership.

This is great work.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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