Living the Dream

Perspective from the field

What does “great” really look like? March 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 8:54 am
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I was at a management meeting today and got into an interesting discussion.  How good is good enough?

Let’s imagine a patient who lives with daily pain for a year.  They go see a doctor, and the doctor says “I know what’s wrong, and if you take this pill, you will feel dramatically better.”  The patient takes their pill every day and they feel much better, very quickly.

If you ask that patient how they are doing, they will then probably tell you “I feel great!”  But do they?  Their threshold for discomfort has been reset.  Their expectation when they wake up each day is to be in pain.  The medicine has greatly reduced that pain, and that means that their expectations are being exceeded. They are happy, they are pleased.  However, how good COULD they be?  Are they feeling completely “normal”, in line with what is expected for their age group?   After so much time feeling pain, can they even possibly remember what “good” looks like?

Now take this analogy to the sales arena.  Do all of our reps and managers know what “good” looks like?  Think about a rep who has been struggling with performance over time.  The manager has been giving them strong and direct coaching, but hasn’t seen any response.  At a certain point,  the rep certainly starts to improve.  The DM tells them “You are doing great!”  The rep feels great too – and keeps doing what they are doing because they think they are now a “great” rep.    However, while that rep has shown marked improvement over the sub standard level they were performing at previously, they are still not fully meeting expectations.

In both of these instances, a calibration needs to happen.  The doctor has to carefully and thoroughly question their patient to recognize if that patient is living pain free.  He knows what “great” really looks like for the larger population.  The Representative and the Manager need to be fully realistic and honest about what “Good” and indeed, what “Great” looks like.  Is the performance great compared to the prior performance, or is it truly great?

Calibration is one of the keys to ensuring performance excellence.  As professionals, we need to constantly seek out opportunities to recalibrate our own view of what excellence looks like.  No matter how good your performance, you should look to those around you for examples of excellence which will help you to better enhance your own performance.    As managers, we need to look for opportunities to ride with the highest performers – and the average performers – in other groups outside of our own staff.

Top performers are those that constantly strive to identify new levels of performance.  They don’t compare themselves to their peers – they are those that compare themselves to what could be.


Making it Personal January 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 11:38 pm

As Salespeople, we are charged with influencing the decisions of others. Doesn’t matter what you sell – your success is defined by changing the mind of customer.

I recently read a very interesting blog about “Competitiveness in Sales People” by S Anthony Iannarino. In it, he states that Competitiveness is one of the top 3 attributes of a top saleperson. He also points out that competitiveness has come to be seen as a negative attribute, but that it’s not.

His blog got me thinking – why is it that some folks shy away from wanting to beat the competitors?   Why is it that some people try to soften and redefine their role?  I am surprised sometimes by reps who shy away from that responsibility.    It’s almost as if sometimes people go out of their way to avoid defining their primary objective as “sales”.  I’ve heard their responsibilities defined as to “service” customers, or “add value”.  Really?

I had an interesting discussion last week with a couple of sales team members.  One of them insisted the competitors needed to lose in order for us to win, but the other rep was more focused on outperforming her past performance.  Both took their success personally, and were focused on achieving new highs.  Listening to them reminded me that different people have different styles – some can be fiercely focused on dominating the competitor while others are more focused on outperforming their own goals.

To me, the key is to have a specific goal – be it kicking your competitor’s “tookus” out of the game, or outperforming your own established stretch goal.  Bottom line – those that fail to establish a specific goal will be unable to strive to overachieve – and therefore will never be the best.


How to change behavior January 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 10:43 pm

As a Sales Leader, I often coach reps on the “art of the sale”.  I find that one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of many reps is that they prioritize the Relationship with the customer above all else.  Listen – we all know that relationships are important.  People want to do business with people they like.  However, it’s also important that reps are skilled in being a Change Agent (that term makes me think of James Bond with an MBA).  Bottom line, sales reps need to become comfortable with making others uncomfortable.

Nature is to resist change – to continue with what is proven and safe.  The unknown is scary – it comes with new sets of questions about what might be.   An effective way to elicit change is through careful exploration of negative stimulus.  Let’s think about migrating animals.  The negative stimuli – be it lack of food, or cold temperatures, or overcrowding – these negative conditions are what stimulate migration.  Otherwise, everybody would probably stay put.  It’s the same with humans.  Most people won’t change what they know to be safe and comfortable unless there is something making them uncomfortable with where they already are.  To sell someone on something new – you must present them not only with the benefits of the new situation, but the drawbacks of the old.

Of course, those of us that are early adopters are slaves to whatever is new or cool (we are the geeks that were online today to get our orders in for the i pad).  For us, the potential negative stimulus is being envious of those that have the latest gadget in their bag while we get left behind with old technology.

The most successful reps – the most persuasive individuals –  are those balance the benefits of the new product / gadget / service / concept while also carefully painting the picture of remaining with the status quo.