2016 could be a year of major change and improvement for you and your sales organization.
As I sat down on New Year’s Eve to review my 2016 plans, I had a moment of panic. For the first time in over 30 years, my plans for the new year didn’t involve trying to figure out how to sell a product. I wasn’t a sales director working to orchestrate a full year selling campaign or even an individual salesperson looking for clients.
I must admit, fear was my first reaction. Then relief. Then a greater sense of responsibility. As the clock struck midnight, I knew that I was…
Free at last.
I know that declaration evokes the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. It reminds us of a time of challenge, but it should also remind us that the challenges of the times were a catalyst for change. Unifying people under a common resolve to improve the way things were. The obvious question I had to ask myself,
What was I going to do with this newfound freedom?
For all of my adult life, I have only known selling. This freedom allows me to sell, without reservation, the one thing I believe our profession needs…change. A change in how we present and conduct ourselves in this oftentimes under-appreciated and misunderstood profession.
To be clear, I believe sales to be a noble profession – when done properly. Think of the impact that sales has on our society: a buyer meets a seller, a need is filled by a demand, a problem meets a solution. Simply put, I believe sales moves the world.
Then why does sales have the perception and reputation, generally negative, in the public’s eye? The answers are many. Some simple, some complex, but in order to elevate the perception of sales, there has to be change. Within an organization, the individual sales professionals and the sales leaders must be open to change.
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
When I reflect on my experience as an individual sales person, I understood that I could only control myself. Not the process or the product. When I became a sales leader, I had the ability to control the product and the process, and to also influence my people. It is usually when sales leaders try to control their teams that internal challenges and conflicts occur. This environment gives rise to some of the salesperson’s behavior that perpetuates our negative reputation.
Influence through leadership is the best, most enduring approach. If you are a sales leader, you have an awesome opportunity to accelerate change in your organization through the power of influence.
How are you interacting with your teams today? Are you operating through influence or from a “command and control” framework?
I understand the control approach. We would all prefer to control something rather than rely on influence, waiting on our teams to see the big picture. Sales leaders have an agenda – we typically call them objectives. Those objectives singularly align all activities to one thing – making the sales target. Typically, there is a focus on the product and the process as a priority, and then the people.
Any success I’ve had in my career has been a by-product of having all three, but in this order of priority: people first, process second and then the product. For the first time in my career, I don’t have a product or process agenda or objective. For me, it is all about the people.
I am free.
That freedom allows me to see our profession from a unique perspective. As I mentioned, that freedom is liberating but also brings responsibility. Responsibility to use my voice and my perspective to raise his noble profession to a higher standard. Approaching it from the top down (sales leaders) and bottom up (sales people). That is what I will endeavor to do in this next series of posts.
Will some of the thoughts be contrarian or controversial? For some, yes! But a difference of opinion should not bring conflict, it should open up communication; sharing of ideas, common struggles and best practice solutions. There are many in this profession who immediately relate to what I am saying, but feel powerless to bring about the kind of change required to raise their organization’s level of sales effectiveness through a people first focus.
For those people, take heart – the effort you exert will be worth it in the form of a perennially strong organization where sales effectiveness is a unified goal, client satisfaction is a top priority, morale is high, and yes, you meet your sales targets!
Sound Utopian? Perhaps, but aren’t those the goals implied by your company’s mission/vision statement? They don’t have to be just words. It is possible. Repeat these words,
“I can positively influence my organization through a people first objective.”
Knowing what is possible when the paradigm of the standard approach is broken should be liberating. Sales leaders, make this the year you exercise the power to influence and the power to change. Take a moment to see your organization taking a quantum leap forward based on the actions you take today.
That power is freedom. Come and join me in the chorus,
“Free at last, free at last… 2016 – free at last!
Until next week, wishing you success.