By Tony Robbins and Walter Rogers
It’s Monday morning in July of 1996. Two events are unfolding simultaneously that will have a decade-long impact on the effectiveness of front-line sales management.
It would be nearly 20 years before companies would realize the impact of the events that took place on that day.
The first event began at 7:30 a.m. at a local sales office. The front-line sales manager had his team assembled and was leading them through a team goals review meeting full of best practices and market intelligence sharing. The second event unfolded 1,000 miles away in the Chicago corporate office. The SVP of the Sales Department was meeting with the CFO and a team of consultants about the ability to deploy sales automation technology and move the sales force to hoteling/home offices in order to minimize real estate costs. So sales offices began to close. Sales reporting began to arrive by mail, rarely on time and rarely accurate. Team meetings gave way to conference calls, and the very managers that excelled at hosting live meetings struggled. Salespeople were distracted and disconnected. Best-practice sharing screeched to a halt. The new technology wasn’t as advertised. But the economy was still strong and few noticed.
Fast forward to today. The modern sales manager has never known the patterned tradition of in-person district sales meetings on Monday morning, one-on-one leader meetings, and shared best practices. Many modern sales managers grew up with no offices, no tangible connection to their teams, and no models to follow. They made their own paths to success. During the longest expansion of our time, nobody thought much of it. But when the U.S. and world headed into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the missing disciplines were exposed. Now, companies across all industries are recognizing the critical need for more effective front-line sales leaders. They are looking for answers, some of which left them 20 years ago. The truth is that there’s never been a better time to be in sales. The newest cloud technology fulfills the promise made in the 1990s when sales offices closed. Better yet, it has the ability to not only bring back the best practices lost but to exponentially improve on them.
—excerpt from “Pathways to Growth” by Chris Ahern, senior advisor at PTG Operations
Good people often fail because they do the right thing at the wrong time. Every season, every economy, offers new opportunities and challenges.
In large companies around the world, technology has changed lives. In years past, the sales process was led by sales leaders who were in direct proximity with the people they managed. They had the ability to see them for a Monday morning meeting and test their skill. But in the 1990s, virtualization became a part of our society and with it, a new breed of modern sales manager emerged — a breed that missed some of the emerging experience that took place during previous economic contractions.
When the financial crisis started in 2008, the immediate focus was cutting costs and becoming more efficient than ever. Using this strategy, companies discovered ways to increase their profitability despite the tightening economy. There’s just one problem. You can cut your way to survival — even profitability — but you can’t cut your way to growth.
The question remains: How do you grow sales and expand the top line? Your company must find a way to produce greater effectiveness across the entire sales process. The entire sales system, from the sales leaders to the sales managers to the sales reps, must be maximized. The best companies have always excelled in the most difficult times. A quick review of the Fortune 500 reveals that more than half were birthed in what we would call an “economic winter” — a recession or a depression: companies like Disney, Apple, Exxon, Microsoft and FedEx. This had nothing to do with good fortune. There were specific reasons these companies thrived during times of economic winter.
If you can learn, as they did, not only to become more efficient but also to maximize sales, you will possess the power to dominate in any economy.
What we’ve discovered is a breakthrough that is so simple and yet so powerful that it has enabled sales teams to grow by 18 percent to 35 percent in sometimes as few as 13 weeks. How? By simply recognizing that growth is not only about how you sell. It is also about the system through which your selling resources are maximized. And that system revolves around maximizing the interlock of each layer in your sales organization, from the chief sales officer all the way to the front-line seller.
Lesson of the Four Seasons
Its core element is doing the right thing at the right time. Think about it in the simplest way, life is just the same: there are four seasons. Mankind transformed its well-being when it finally recognized the Earth’s pattern of seasons. Before that, we were given over to wandering through the landscape, looking for food or trying to find something we could hunt. But once we recognized the seasons, we were able to tap into our full capacity. We could farm local land and remain in one place long enough to build communities and then cities and eventually entire civilizations. All because we recognized a critical pattern and were immediately able to eliminate one of the most detrimental mistakes people make in business and life: doing the right things at the wrong time.
If you fail to recognize the fundamental or most critical patterns to your life and business, then you are destined to make this mistake. You are likely to wander the landscape looking for food, or plant in the winter and then wonder why, after all your hard work, you’re not seeing the fruit of your labor. A more recent example of this mistake has played out painfully for those who bought personal homes five or six years ago. For nearly 100 years in American culture, buying your own home has been the right thing to do as soon as you had or could borrow the money. It was an unquestioned move. But if you bought in 2006 or 2007, you bought at the wrong time. At its worth, the value of many homes were down between 30 percent and 70 percent. Right thing, wrong time. Devastating results.
Pattern recognition, pattern creation and pattern utilization are the differentiators between success and failure in business and in life. When a proven pattern is turned into a repeatable system, it becomes a pathway to growth that anyone can follow.
Unfortunately, many of today’s sales organizations often execute conflicting paths to growth. Outside of the regularly scheduled forecast call, very few predictable sales management patterns unfold across the different sales-force layers. The result is that the sales force is not optimized to perform at its highest levels. When a company has more than one sales team, the managers might share the same philosophy of growth, but they employ their systems in different ways and with different tools. As a result, they use a different language from one team to the next. And they emphasize different metrics.
Within a single company, you’re likely to find sales reps from one region who do not relate to the system of a sales manager from the next region over. This makes communication, collaboration and increased effectiveness far bigger challenges than they should be, especially as companies continue to re-organize at an accelerating pace. As reps, managers and leaders move from team to team, they need to continuously learn new languages and patterns. As a result, sales executives spend more time deciphering ongoing change than inspiring their managers. Managers spend more time interpreting changes while bending and adjusting their systems than empowering the individuals on their teams.
When teams experience consistent growth, it’s because they have a clear, company-wide system in place, and they have aligned themselves around it. They pursue the same metrics. They emphasize the same objectives. And most importantly, they practice the same disciplines that create a pattern that drives results. These patterns are organized around five main drivers:
2. Operational Excellence
3. Recruiting and Training
4. Coaching and Enabling
These systems are brought to life with repetitive patterns organized around team, one-on-one, and executive actions enabled by cloud-based technology.
The Crux of the Matter
Before the advent of cloud-based technologies from salesforce.com and its new service, Work.com, the dispersed configuration of teams prevented the reinforcement of high-impact best practices and behavior patterns. Previous systems failed to promote a common vocabulary and the sharing of ideas; and they also failed to promote a unified system within which everyone could execute effectively. It’s easier to perform 10 tasks when they are habit than it is to perform one task when it’s not. Any new task takes more energy than a habitual one; and that energy has to come from somewhere.
B.J. Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, explains that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: motivation, ability and a trigger. The magic comes by bringing human psychology, patterns or success, skills and technology together to tighten top-line alignment around key organizational goals, and then breaking those goals down into the supporting behaviors that make it all happen week in and week out. All with an eye toward maximizing a company’s sales engine by leveraging breakthrough strategies and tools that accelerate the tempo of customers’ pipeline- to-purchase cycle.
“The economy has driven many companies to exhaust techniques for cutting costs,” says Marc Benioff, CEO and co-founder of salesforce. com. “Sooner or later in the quest for increasing margin, you have to turn your attention to raising top-line sales.”
As PTG sales expert Chris Ahearn notes, cloud-based technologies are now here to fulfill the promise of hope they’ve been waiting for. And best of all, they have the potential not only to restore lost disciplines, but to improve them exponentially.
The key leverage point for that critical endeavor is the sales manager. Focus the sales manager’s behavior in the right ways, and you can immediately implement a system that revolutionizes entire teams. One effective manager can impact 10 reps — or more — at one time, leading them to grow revenue exponentially. More and more, companies around the world are acknowledging fundamental gaps in how sales managers help teams achieve high degrees of sales performance.
The billion-dollar question is: How do we close the gap? The recent book “Pathways to Growth” states that the performance of your reps ultimately depends on the manager’s ability to align and coach the team on the behaviors necessary for growth. Poor management in this context engenders poor performance. Guaranteed.
It is absolutely crucial to focus on your customers, how they are buying, and where they are going. Anticipating and meeting customer needs is the hallmark of success. Without customers, there is no business. Customers have many choices, and most are available to them at the tip of their fingers. It’s seductive to think that there are shortcuts. It’s enticing to believe that charisma, confidence and resourcefulness can form the foundation of stellar sales success. But top-line growth is not the result of motivation and moxie alone. Increasing revenue is far more often the by-product of discovering, creating and then leveraging systems and patterns that produce results. And the good news is that most companies are just two millimeters away from greatness. In sports, two millimeters is the difference between first and second place; in some cases between Olympic Gold and fourth place. In NASCAR, the average time difference between first and second place is 1.56 seconds. In business, two millimeters is the difference between winning and losing.
To maintain the right focus on your customers, sales organizations must be more aligned and efficient than ever before. In today’s world, when resources are scarce and productivity must continue to increase, a sales management system will maximize the use of your selling resources and keep them focused on doing the right thing at the right time, blazing your own path to growth.
—Tony Robbins and Walter Rogers are co-authors of “Pathways to Growth” and cofounders of CloudCoaching International, which helps companies all over the world maximize their sales resources. To request an in-depth complimentary assessment, telephone (713) 627-7700.