I was looking for some funny sales cartoons last week and during my 'research' I was struck by a common theme – a negative perception of the profession of sales. Unfortunately, I get it and it’s our own fault.
Think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all). Sure organizations often provide technical or product training, but what about actual sales skills? There was (is?) the common scenario of ever-increasing targets and misguided compensation plans that reward the wrong behavior. Given the lack of training and poor comp plans, is there any wonder why sales has a bad reputation? We were literally creating an environment where a collection of under skilled, unprepared sales people with intense pressure to ‘close’ were interacting YOUR clients. As a result, it’s not a surprise that we often see desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
The often poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s change that.
Don’t believe me or think I may be exaggerating? Well, I will politely say you are wrong. As noted in my recent LinkedIn post, In his book "To sell is Human", Daniel Pink did a survey on the perception of sales people and 80% of the responses were NEGATIVE.
Based on my ‘research’, I see many top sales writers and influencers speaking about the evolution of sales, especially with the recent pandemic causing even more need to adapt.
The Modern Definition of Sales-Generally speaking, sales is a process of creating value and helping prospective customers fix their problems. Sales is all about ABH or Always Be Helping rather than an old school ABC which was all about Always Be Closing
I like that. I also saw this comment that resonated with me:
“What makes someone effective at sales? A genuine desire to help others solve problems”
Lisa Earle McLoed describes a concept of Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who's focus or purpose is to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas), actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
So then how do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals and shift the perception of sales?
Well, what elite athletes have in common is an intentional plan and time commitment to work on specific skills. Why don’t we do the same with Leadership and Sales skills? (I don’t know either- that’s why I am asking you!).
Organizations rely on sales to grow revenue. Always have. As we recover from the pandemic, we need effective, motivated and well-trained sales professionals to grow our organizations and our economies. This underlines how important it is to focus the appropriate investment, time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams skills to increase the opportunity for success.
Proper training and coaching is more important than ever to help sales reps evolve into effective and fulfilled sales professionals. All of us can benefit from enhancing and updating our skills.
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. This diverse teams of business all-stars have helped me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow closer to their potential. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
These programs are available virtually and when appropriate, in-person.
Let's work together to professionalize sales by providing better training and coaching support for the people who chose to work in this incredibly important area of our organizations.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
Think about the last time you were in a work situation where you were handed a new assignment or were given a promotion. Did you think to yourself ‘oh boy, I am in over my head on this one’. Or maybe ‘This is it – I can’t do this and now everyone’s going to know I’m a failure’.
And what happened?
My guess is, with some hard work, persistence, support etc., you did it. Right?
Why am I writing about this now? I have sense that if you’re reading this, we have had similar experiences and doubts in ourselves.
Imposter syndrome: The persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.
In her article Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, author Gill Corkindale states that Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence
I have known for a long time that fear of failure is a HUGE motivator for me. I think it always has been. For example:
University – I wasn’t a great student. But in university I knew I couldn’t goof around anymore. Especially as my parents were paying for me. To make it even harder on myself, I took a Business minor. To avoid failure, I worked my butt off and studied all the time. I graduated with high marks and had way better marks than High School.
Sprint Canada – Everyone seemed smarter, more talented and better looking than me. Crap, I should have stayed where I was. Fast forward 15 years and I can look back on an extremely successful career and made many great friends along the way
KPMG – What am I doing?!?! These people are smart and established professionals. Those 3 years turned out to be extremely rewarding and I Iearned a lot about business and professional services. Most importantly, I started to get a sense that I was more capable, adaptable and resourceful than I gave myself credit.
Envision Group & SBD Growth Strategies – What do I have to offer that could help others? What credibility do I have? This ‘experiment’ isn’t going to work and I will have to swallow my pride and get a real job again. I am not an expert….am I?
While I have been on my own for 5 years, just over 3 years ago Pat Lipovski, Founder & CEO of the Envision Group, invited me to come to Houston to help with leadership training for an oil and gas client. I am 51 years old and I am now having ‘holy shit’ moments constantly.
Um, I can’t co-facilitate leadership training!?!
Pat just called on me to say something!! @%$! Ok just relax
1 on 1 coaching!?! These poor people…
I am starting year 4 with Pat and the client in Texas and Pat’s probably now wondering if I will ever shut up (during the training anyway)! I REALLY enjoy facilitating workshops and I may enjoy 1 on 1 coaching even more. It is so energizing and rewarding. And while I cursed Pat for putting me in those situations (like A LOT), I wouldn’t have grown in my capabilities and confidence if that jack ass hadn’t basically MADE me do it. (Thanks Pat. And sorry for calling you a jack ass)
Stop beating yourself up and give yourself credit for your accomplishments.
Start, or continue, on your plan to get better. Not tomorrow…Today.
You got this!
Do you think a succession plan for your role, and for your organization overall, is important?
If so, what are you doing about it?
Some things to consider:
· According to ERC, research figures show that the number of people in leadership roles that plan to retire in the next few years is higher than the number of people entering the workforce.
· A study conducted by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation (CFERF) found that, “only 40% of Canadian private companies have a clear business ownership succession plan in place.”
· According to a PWC report, there are substantial benefits to be gained by identifying talented employees – including those deep in the organization with specialized skills – and coordinating their training and development to prepare them for the future.
With this in mind, let’s explore opportunities to be more mindful of building your succession plan.
First, how often do you find yourself doing ‘stuff’ because if you just do it yourself, it will be done faster or ‘I know it will be done right’? Do you realize that while that could be true in the short term, in the long term you are robbing yourself of time to do other work? More high level, strategic and/or proactive work?
Further, you are robbing the team you lead the opportunity to take on new challenges and learn new skills that allow them grow, learn and evolve.
You may be thinking ‘yah great Scott but this is easier said than done. I’m busy and succession planning takes time’!
May I suggest, for the 3rd week in a row, Living Above the Line as a way to help you think about and build your succession plan .
One really easy way to build your succession plan is to
Yup - instead of doing it yourself, identify opportunities to ask questions. Instead of telling your team what to do, think about appropriate questions you could ask.
This Forbes article articulates this really well. The author suggests 3 main benefits of Asking vs Telling and the third is 'Asking enables others to lead'.
“When others are encouraged to bring their best thinking to the table, they demonstrate leadership regardless of their position or title. Enabling others to lead and then supporting them in growing their confidence and ability helps to create more leaders within an organization.”
In a recent coaching call, we were exploring the benefits the person I was working with received from using the Living Above the Line model. She used the term ‘purposeful delegation'. That’s a gooder. Because she had an ‘a-ha moment and did a wonderful job of sharing her experience with me, here are my notes based on how she described the process from her perspective:
Looking at tasks from a different perspective. Less tactical, now more strategic
Inviting people to come along for the ride
When you give up control, people will work really hard and:
To increase your chances of being promoted and have an even ‘more awesomer’ (that’s a word!) high-performing team, invest your time in building an even better and stronger team of successors. Living Above the Line provides a simple and powerful model to guide you in that journey. It begins with something as simple as less doing and more asking.
(We offer a 60 minute webinar that further explains the Living Above the Line model and helps attendees better understand when and how to best implement this powerful tool.
Does it frustrate you that that no matter what you do, some people on your team just don’t seem to be engaged? They won’t make decisions, offer suggestions or take initiative on any projects. Do you wonder if there is anything you can do as a leader to get them to contribute more without being told what to do?
You may be asking yourself, ‘what’s wrong with them?’
Maybe…stay with me on this point…it’s not (just) them?
I’ve done research on top complaints about managers and some common themes come up:
Top complaints about ‘bad bosses’, in no particular order include:
3. Resistant to change
5. Not empowering employees
Last week I wrote about using the concept of Living Above the Line to gain back some of your time. This week I want to focus on Living Above the Line as a leadership method for helping you help your team be even more engaged and empowered.
The above graphic is used extensively by the Envision Team (http://www.envisiongroup.ca/) when training and coaching our clients around the world. It’s probably our most popular leadership tool according to current and past program participants and coaching clients.
Why? It’s so simple and provides an easy, visual tool to guide leaders through the process of helping others “Live Above the Line”. The secret? Start asking employees questions to get them thinking ‘above the line’ about a positive future state and how they feel you can best get there.
Think of it this way - are you more likely to be engaged on a project if you come up with an idea or if your boss says “here’s a problem we have and here’s how I want you to fix it’? Living Above the Line encourages us as leaders to empower our teams with the confidence and courage to become part of the solution instead of just being told what to do.
In his e-book Great Leaders Ask Questions, Bob Tiede Founder & CEO of LeadingWithQuestions.com writes:
“Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers, as it is about knowing the right questions.
Questions are the golden keys that unlock hearts and minds.”
Instead of telling your team what to do, could you ask more questions? Questions like:
“What does your experience suggest is the best way to do this?” Or
“Interesting, what do you think we should do”?
Even IF you have the answer, or an opinion, you don’t always have to interrupt your other responsibilities to offer it up. If someone on your team is encouraged to share their ideas and act on them, they tend be more engaged on the issue or project. And, if over time, that employee is encouraged to act and is acknowledged for not only sharing their ideas but also on a job well done, it’s also more likely they will do it more often. They’ll be even more engaged in their work and feel more empowered to share ideas and take initiative. They may even start to ‘put their hand up’, so to speak, in meetings and suggest a course of action or share an idea they have. So yah, be even more engaged.
Living Above the Line helps leaders enhance the culture of empowering and engaging employees. I will share with you a recent email I received from a current coaching client to drive this point home:
“Living Above the Line positively encourages team members to come with thought out solutions to the problem(s) raised, rather than just throwing their hands up in the air and complaining about an issue. In turn, it encourages innovation for them, collaboration, creativity, independent thinking… etc.
For me, it means I get more time to do the things that need my direct attention, as opposed to just being everyone’s problem solver.”
What strategies have you found to be successful in your leadership role? I’d love to hear your comments, experience and questions. Also, If you want to learn more about Living Above the Line and how it can help drive an even more positive culture in your organization, visit my website at http://sdbdsolutions.ca/ or drop me a message on LinkedIn.
Last week I had a great conversation with friend and marketing guru Tim Phelan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/timphelan10/). He helped give me some clarity on several ideas I have bouncing around inside my cavernous melon.
For example, a few weeks ago I made a post that science shows that we get ‘dumber’ when we try to multitask. We think it’s helping to get more done, but in fact we get less accomplished, make more mistakes and lower our creativity. Further, it contributes to the frustration of feeling like we didn’t get enough accomplished again today. I have struggled with this and I am making a concerted effort to try and stay on task and not get distracted by ‘squirrel’!
I bring this up as I have noticed a recurring theme in many of my coaching calls recently where clients want to Get More Done. In other words - Better Time Management. Many people feel as though they have to increasingly do more with less.
A concept that I use in training and coaching, Living Above the Line, points us in a direction that can help. Here is one example:
As a leader, think about a typical day. How often do you have peers and/or people on your team popping in to see you to ask a question, get clarification or complain about something that ‘isn’t working’? Do you typically have the answer……and give it to them? Or tell them how to fix it?
Are you the ‘answer’ person on your team or in your company? The go-to person that almost everyone comes to for answers because of your education, training and experience? Feels good to help people and be the one they come to for answers, right?
Well STOP IT!
Yah seriously, stop doing that. At least stop doing it so often. As long as you always give them the answers, they’ll keep interrupting your day. Think about it – how often does the person asking the question probably already know the answer? Or, how often with a little help, they could go and figure it out themselves? Additionally, how often are they simply wanting to bitch about somebody or something?
While it’s helpful to vent, we need to move the conversation to a positive place or outcome.
We need to get, you, and them, Living Above the Line. This is all about your frame of mind, your approach or perspective. For example, what may happen if you said to them something like:
“What do YOU think we should do to fix this”?
“How do YOU suggest we move forward”
Imagine all the different and good things that can happen from this. First, you are creating the environment where they come with problems AND solutions; or at least ideas. Second, they will eventually start to figure these things out on their own and come to you less and less. From a time-management perspective, imagine this: a team that is, eventually over time, more confident, more engaged and independent. Would this future team come to you less often for answers. Can that save you 30 minutes a day? An hour? More?
Many of my coaching clients have found that getting better, even incrementally over time, at Living Above the Line, has many benefits, including giving themselves more time to work on their own work. Some even spend less time fighting fires, dealing with other people’s problem and being less task focused and (gasp) more working on big picture strategic initiatives.
Sounds awesome right?
Stop having ALL of the answers ALL of the time. Identify the appropriate opportunities in your day to help someone answer their own questions or find their own answers (good leadership right!). Besides being good for them, it will also help you gain some time during your day.