The most critical part of your business is…

Last week, the city of San Francisco was overwhelmed with Dreamforce. Not in a bad way, mind you. But any time that well over 100,000 people show up for something, it has a tendency to create its own gravitational field.

I went for just one day, and had a great time at a conference within the conference – Ops Stars. It had a full line-up of sales operations leaders and practitioners (which reflect a big part of my customer base). The big theme there was ABM (account-based marketing/engagement), but there were plenty of other things to talk about and explore.

All around me, everybody was trying to figure out technology stacks, process improvements, and revenue-generating business rules. Even the Dreamforce agenda was locked into ethics, artificial intelligence, and equality.

And it hit me – the centerpiece of everything we were really talking about is the most critical part of business.


I don’t care what your business is, it relies on people.

But that’s the funny thing. Everything looks great on paper, until people get involved…

People are the hardest part of business. And the best part of business.

But do we really pause and invest in understanding them better?

I just finished building a sales playbook for a small start-up business. The business has inspired leadership and a great value proposition. They have high quality mentors and solid operations. But they were struggling to turn their revenue engine on.

Now, it would be easy to simply white-label something that I had already made for someone else and just give them a new playbook. But that’s not how any of us should approach our clients, right?

Instead, we had to work together to get into the minds and hearts of the people involved. We started with their targeted customers, to truly understand how those customers made decisions. Then we paused to understand how their team approached sales conversations with those customers, to truly understand what they did well, what they didn’t, and why.

Only then could we build the content, tools, and behaviors that would harness all of that psychology.

It was very much like finding a current in the ocean and harnessing it. It’s not as easy as you think, but when you are successful, it generates its own sustainable energy.

Sadly, that is not how I see many businesses making decisions. Instead, they define a targeted result (like acquire X new customers or reduce employee churn by Y) and start seeking solutions that other folks have used to deliver those same results. Without considering context. Without considering motivation. Without considering competing priorities/activities/leadership.

Without considering the “people” part of the equation.

It’s the equivalent of buying a beautiful boat and not giving it an experienced crew.

So what exactly am I saying?

I’m saying that if your business involves people – real human beings – you HAVE to understand them before you can affect anything in a significant way. You HAVE to bring them to the forefront of your thinking before you start making decisions.

  • If you are going to affect customers, do you truly understand where they are today and where they are going? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?
  • If you are going to affect employees, do you truly understand how clearly they are aligned to what you need them to do and how motivated they are to do it? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?
  • And if you are going to affect your leadership, do you truly understand their passions and dreams and what is getting in the way of achieving that? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?

In other words, pause long enough to get the kind of clarity that only people can define. Ask them questions. Study what makes them tick. Learn how human behavior affects the way that we work together. Or don’t work together.

It will accelerate your thinking and drive decisions toward harnessing your people to achieve great things.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – That small start-up business that I helped has already gotten a tremendous lift in sales results. 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.

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