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The Challenge of Sales Managers

By October 24, 2012 No Comments

The challenge of Sales Managers and other bottom line movers:
The drive for results and meeting shareholder (and analysts) expectations requires growth in revenues and/or reduction costs to impact share price/value. The growth objective lands squarely on the shoulders of every sales manager, CEO, CFO and virtually everyone else in a for-profit business. The question that stirs their soul is how to achieve this growth…yet again? How to push the envelope…yet again? How do we meet the number…yet again?
The answer to this question inevitably leads to another question in the ‘how’ tree but starts to include those who can do something about it… people, the team, humans. How can we motivate people and teams into the actions required? How can we encourage and incentivize them to reach this new level? How can we create more synergy, more collaboration?

Without the pressure to change, innovate and grow, people will eventually default to what is reflexive and comfortable. We are in such a pressure cooker for growth that it requires brilliance on the part of leaders, sales managers and others to keep people engaged in a realm that is beyond comfortable, and beyond the reflexive tendencies of most. We are the most collaborative species on the planet. No other animal passes on knowledge faster. It is extraordinary how fast our knowledge now moves around the globe. It is not slowing down and therefore requires a pace that is beyond even our extraordinary pre-wiring (neuropsychological, metaphorically and technologically).
This is the domain of the sales kick-off, the rally, the all-hands meeting, the ‘one-team’ meeting, the leadership retreat, etc. Everyone is trying to create a new relationship to the words that are timeless for success. How do you say it is important to meet our quota, deliver X products, meet Y targets with the same words you used last year? What any good sales manager, VP or CEO knows is that it is not the words that are used but the relationships that people have to those words; the meaning that is derived from them or a new feeling that is generated.
We are sick of hearing the word ‘teamwork’ or ‘teambuilding’ as a stand-alone concept. People want a new context for that word or a new word entirely.
Teambuilding took root as a concept that was popularized by Edward Demming and his “Total Quality Management” philosophy. His theory was based on the idea of trust, commitment, and ownership as a way to flatten out an organization – in order to be more efficient and effective in decision-making. This had a greater impact on quality, results, relationships and processes.
The concept is still true today, however, the term ‘teambuilding’ has a foul meaning in the mouth of many a sales people. People think they have done ‘teambuilding’, and the profiteers and manipulators of that term are ready to serve up a new platter. There is so much garbage offered under the guise of ‘teambuilding’. In order to create powerful dialogues around these important components of an organization, a simulation or experience was required to provide a new context for individuals and ‘teams’ to observe the characteristics and nuances of teams. These activities and simulations were often dramatic to help participants ‘see’ or ‘feel’ these concepts. An expert facilitator was often needed to make it relevant to the business of that team. In some cases that expert was the sales manager or other internal or external person.
‘Teambuilding’ companies sprang up everywhere focusing on the ‘activity’ versus the process, context and discussion. Suddenly, teambuilding became ubiquitous with ‘activity’. Activities such as paint ball, beach Olympics, drinking heavily, scavenger hunts, jeopardy, karaoke, etc. were all on the menu. Participants thought they were doing ‘teambuilding’ when in fact all they were doing was an activity with people they worked with.
The Europeans were hit hardest by empty teambuilding. By the time Odyssey opened a satellite partnership in Prague, the damage of teambuilding profiteers had already been done. The brand of hokey crap had already been established and it was all about drinking and fun versus the sober, meaningful development of a team.
So how do you present the timeless importance of the virtues of teamwork, the need for collaboration, the sharing of knowledge, the commitment to a better product, better customer experience – the things that build sales, build teams and organizations? At your next off-site, all-hands, sales kick-off or leadership meeting, you simply MUST:
1) Create a new relationship to these words! They have to think and FEEL something significantly different this time. Your job is to help them connect that thinking and feeling in a relevant way to the words on which you are hanging your future.
2) They MUST be given the forum to discuss it, powerfully. Are they humble and curious – synonymous with less ego and better listening?
3) Be sure you have, or anyone else you bring in has, the facilitative chops to create this environment. The participants gave up too much to be at this meeting and you have paid too much to make it happen. Your money, their time. Honor it.