Monthly Archives: November 2018

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The danger of “good enough”

There’s a saying out here in Silicon Valley (though I’m sure it’s more international than that). It goes like this:

Ideas are worth a dollar. All the money is in the execution.

In other words, the true money is found in how the idea is brought to life.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that one of the tenets of the startup mentality is to get the idea going, to get a minimum viable product out the door.

And if this is where you are as a startup or innovator, then good enough sits squarely in your sweet spot.

But I have seen a nasty habit form from this mindset – in more than just tech companies.

I call it “good enough” thinking.

As in the revenue coming in is good enough. And the service going out the door is good enough. And the people, resources, and processes are good enough.

This isn’t necessarily bad/wrong, but it often leads to a problem that will actually stall the company – or worse.

You see, when “good enough” is the target, people get sloppy. They get complacent. They don’t invest in their own continuous improvement. Because people are – well – people. It’s in our nature to tune out the fringes and just focus on what is right in front of us. Our brains are literally wired to think this way, unless we force it to behave differently.

Consequently, we don’t truly invest in what it takes to reach the next level.

And once “good enough” thinking settles in as the norm, the entire organization is at risk.

Why?

Because people won’t know what they need to know. They will become so hyper-focused on what is in front of them that they will exclude paying attention to what they need to learn next. They will literally build a business engine that cannot scale or evolve.

And this is particularly painful when it comes to the Sales function.

As long as sales results are “good enough,” the risk of people not keeping their own continuous improvement up to date increases. People will not stay on top of how to reach the next level – because everyone is operating with “good enough” as the target. They simply aren’t looking at how to take things to the next level. They are not seeking new resources nor learning the skills that go with those resources. They are not challenging processes that limit performance. They are literally creating their own blind spots.

Mirror moment: Has your team been lulled into a state of “good enough”? Have you looked at how well your sales content, tools, and behaviors can scale?

If you see tension in cross-functional alignment, you have a “good enough” problem.

If you have a massive goal to reach and you have zero confidence that your current team can get there, you have a “good enough” problem.

Take time now, as the year wraps up, to do some proper evaluation of your sales health. Look to see where “good enough” thinking has created weakness. I recommend that you look at the following areas:

  • How do we recruit – do we hire well?
  • How do we onboard and develop – do we get people up to speed quickly and effectively?
  • How do we sell – do we ensure that our sellers are relevant to the customers they serve?
  • How do we manage – do we build high-performing teams with genuine bench strength?

Every one of these workstreams can stall your sales engine.

And when you see something that you know is broken, call it out. Do it now – before your customers evolve or your competitors surge or the market tanks or… You get the picture.

Because, as the old saying goes, what got you here won’t get you there.

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.

4 principles for creating better empowerment

Look. It is REALLY hard to keep your best sales people happy.

When things are good, they are ecstatic.  But when things get tough (or complex or slowed down or ineffective), they become your biggest critics.

But have you noticed that the attitudes of your sales people are often one of the best indicators of how healthy your business is?

Their attitudes will tell you if things are on- or off-track long before your sales results come in.

This is because they live at the closest point of your revenue health. And they experience the health of your sales engine daily.

Your sales team will know if your marketing is good. Or not.

Your sales team will know if your technology is working as intended. Or not.

Your sales team will know if your management is healthy. Or not.

I this blog, I want to focus on one of the best ways to drive a positive attitude among your sales team: empowerment.

Specifically, if your sales team is empowered correctly, they will drive through walls to succeed. And if you don’t empower them, they will shut off. They will de-motivate. They will not bring in any substantive revenue.

Here are four principles that I believe will help any organization create and increase empowerment.

Principle one: Buy-in. In other words, are people bought in to what you are empowering them to do? This is not as simple as it sounds because you must answer two important questions to get buy-in.

First, is this the right thing to do for the company? People need to know that the direction we want them to go is going to make the company – and our customers – successful. Unfortunately, many well-intended leaders stop there. They ignore the second most important question: Is that the right thing for me to do? People need to believe that their personal effort (and often sacrifice) will provide a significant reward for them.

This is why I strongly believe in the power of purpose, both organizationally and personally. It provides the fuel for these discussions. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t keep purpose at the forefront of their day-to-day reality. Guess what they are doing to their overall empowerment? Yep. They are choking it off.

Great leaders always attach purpose to buy-in.

Principle two: Outcomes. In other words, what are you empowering people to deliver? There are three kinds of outcomes (side note: these are also what we actually sell):

  • Ongoing impacts – the core responsibilities produced by the overall strategy (think profitability, customer loyalty, etc.)
  • One-time results – the success milestones that support ongoing impacts (think sales numbers, quality metrics, etc.)
  • Fulfilled tasks – the basic activities we do to achieve results (think prospecting, negotiating, etc.)

The challenge is that many leaders only empower their people to complete tasks. This severely limits empowerment because it takes away the ability to be creative, to be spontaneous, to be problem-solvers.

At the minimum, people need to be empowered to deliver results so that they can bring all of their gifts and abilities to the equation.

Great leaders empower their people to achieve results – and beyond.

Principle three: Assets. In other words, how do you supply people for their empowerment? There are four assets that you must consider:

  • People – Supply more people, better people, and even solid examples of successful people
  • Time – Supply time to get it done and done well enough
  • Energy – Supply motivation, pace, confidence, and clarity
  • Resources – Supply money, space, and equipment to succeed

The difficulty is when you, as the leader, have limited assets to share. If you have tackled buy-in and outcomes properly, this is a much easier discussion with your team. But if you haven’t… well, you get the picture.

Great leaders manage their assets strategically to ensure empowerment.

Principle four: Metrics. In other words, how are you measuring whether not empowerment is happening? The key is to measure both perception AND reality.

To measure perception, simply ask your team what they think and feel. But get specific about what you explore. Look at their perception of buy-in, outcomes, and assets. Does it align to what you are trying to do?

To measure reality, it’s basically the same approach, but uses objective data instead.

Too many leaders only assess the perception of empowerment. As long as no one is complaining (too much), they think they are in good shape.

Great leaders do the work to define and track metrics that indicate where empowerment is happening – both perception and reality.

I almost added a fifth principle, but it really is just a great tool that I use to check on how well I am doing as a leader. The tool is a simple question: Can I turn my back?

In other words, can I walk away and trust that the team will do the right work in the right way? If the answer is no, I have work to do.

And so will you.

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.

Seeing the whole elephant

I live in an industry that is crowded with debate.

Cold calling is dead.

Cold calling is very much alive.

Social selling is everything.

Social selling is a fad.

THESE people are legit sales experts.

THOSE people are sales frauds.

And the debates go on…

And frankly, it’s all just one, big elephant.

You remember the old story, right? The story about a group of blind men who are trying to describe an elephant – each one with his own interpretation? The moral of the story was that they were all correct. And they were still wrong.

This is exactly what we see in sales.

What is vitally important in B2B is literally worthless in B2C.

What is absolutely necessary in enterprise sales isn’t even wanted in start-ups.

What is ignored in hi-tech is critical for everyone else.

Have you noticed this as well?

And maybe it’s because I have worked with so many different kinds of companies and industries, but if we are truly going to see the whole elephant as it is, I think there are some key ideas that have to be recognized.

First, there is problem complexity. What the local carpenter has to do to sell is different than what the multi-national building contractor has to do to sell. But most companies don’t have a very good way of defining how that complexity works – let alone how to most effectively change their approach to navigate the complexity of their customers’ problems. I’ve given a LOT of thought to this topic, so much that I co-wrote a short eBook on this topic. You can download it for free at: http://agilityselling.com/powerofproblems/

Second, there is market maturity. And by maturity, I am referring to the classic S-curve model of early adoption through to decline. In other words, what innovators like Apple and Samsung have to do to sell is different than what mature companies like Shell and Coca-Cola have to do to sell – and avoid decline. The value of innovation is critical here. We over-simplify our strategies to “find a need.” It’s rather quite ineffective. Too many sellers don’t fully understand how to shift their strategy as their innovation reaches the top of the S-curve. Nor do their companies.

Third, there are market dynamics (economy, competitors, social change, etc.). It’s really a subset of the market S-curve, but I’m specifically pointing to the resources involved in bringing the strategy to life. The value of brand strength and market position are often underestimated in this regard. The resources that Chrysler and Walmart have to use to sell is different than what Tesla and Amazon have to use to sell. What works for the biggest, most popular names is only a fraction of what is needed for everyone else. This means that without the right logo on your business card, you will need many more resources – just to get access to the right buyers. And that doesn’t address the resources required to actually close business.

Fourth, there is the ability to execute – on both sides. Frankly, I believe that this is the great neutralizer. The ability to execute can literally erase all of the previous points in one stroke. And this is especially true when we include our customers. On one hand, we may not be able to execute within the context of their reality. Shame on us. On the other hand, no matter how good we are, our customer may not be able to execute either. They literally cannot activate the value we promised. Shame on us again for not seeing that.

When you look at your company, what do you see?

Does it help you:

  • change your sales approach to effectively navigate your customer’s problems – no matter how complex?
  • adjust your overall sales strategy to maximize what your innovation provides (or doesn’t provide any longer)?
  • select the right sales resources to harness (or overcome) your brand positioning in the market to get access to the right buyers?
  • ensure that execution is both possible and on schedule to deliver the value you promise?

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and each point can be expanded to become its own blog.

More importantly, each topic can define an expert – but don’t assume that just because you have expertise in one sales reality that the other realities aren’t legitimate.

The elephant is much bigger than you think.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai