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June 2014

Are You Managing Your Sales Reps or Are They Managing You?

Meridith Powell headshot (1)Today's guest post is by Meridith Elliott Powell, founder and owner of MotionFirst and author of Winning in the Trust and Value Economy.



A few months ago, I was working with one of my favorite clients on business-development training and strategic business growth. Our typical style when making change is to involve and engage the team right from the start, ensuring before we implement change that we get the team’s support and buy-in.

In this instance, however, out of nowhere, we got a major opportunity, and we had to make a quick decision. It was a unique and innovative new product line that would be the perfect addition to our client offering – a little out-of-the-box but very innovative, and it truly filled a client need. If we wanted to offer it, we needed to act quickly and sign an exclusive deal with the vendor; there wasn’t time to engage the team to get input and buy-in. The timing wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t worry about that, as this product was going to give the team a great new product to sell and offered a serious way to open doors and sell more to existing clients.

The CEO was pumped up and could not wait to share the news with the team. I cautioned that we needed to prepare for this meeting and discuss how we were going to get the team’s buy-in and support and how we would handle push-back. He felt that such preparation was totally unnecessary. He wondered why the team wouldn’t embrace a new product line that was going to make sales, client growth, and retention so much easier.

So forward we went with the meeting, and the CEO rolled out the new idea, complete with the dates of required training to get started. I asked to be at the meeting just to observe, and observe I did. The moment he started talking, his entire team, including his commercial leader, started to resist. Before they even said anything, you could feel the energy in the room change and how irritated the team was getting, and you could almost hear all the negative thoughts running through their heads.

As soon as the CEO stopped talking, they started. There was push-back, complaining – sheer resistance so strong and loud that even the commercial leader jumped in, and the CEO started to cave and immediately began making concessions. He offered to wait on the training, have the product in the company’s mix but not highlight it, and review it one more time before the contract is signed, and the list went on.

It was clear in that moment who was running the team and company, and it was not the commercial leader, and it was certainly not the CEO. The team was running the show. Unfortunately, if someone else didn’t start leading the team, then this team and company were going to miss a major opportunity.

People don’t resist change because they are bad people; they resist it because they don’t understand change, and more importantly, they do not understand how it will benefit them. Unless the change is our idea, sometimes the first reaction to it is defensive and negative. As a leader, understand that you must prepare for it and help your team make the transition. Your job as the sales leader is to simultaneously acknowledge the challenge your team members do see and help them see the benefit of what they don’t – what’s in it for them, their customers, and their company.

In this case, right after the meeting, the CEO, the commercial leader, and I had a coaching session, in which we debriefed the meeting, going through what went well (very little) and what could have gone better (a lot). The result: a CEO with a stronger backbone and a willingness to strategize before meetings that are focused on change, and more importantly, a commercial leader who is now committed to focusing on opportunity rather than challenge when change is introduced.

We had a do-over, and this time we walked the team members through all the benefits (for the team and clients) of this new product line, which were immense and why the CEO was so excited; acknowledged their worry about additional challenges on the front end; and guaranteed the support and help they would need to make the transition.

The result: a motivated, engaged, and excited team hitting record-growth numbers with the new product line, and a CEO and commercial leader who are back in charge of the team and company.

Critical Factors That Drive Your Organizational Culture

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global.



Your company culture is more than just a phrase or a tagline; it’s the heart of how things truly get done at your company. It is the key to strategy execution and high performance.

As an example of culture’s importance, take a look at this video clip, from the movie The Internship, which I showed to the audience during my recent presentation at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

In the context of this movie, Google has a strong sense of its company culture. What’s so funny is that the two characters clearly don’t fit in, and their stints at Google will not and should not last if the culture has high performance attributes.

Organizational culture is not “soft” stuff. Harvard Business Review says that up to half of the difference in performance between companies in the same industry can be attributed to culture. Think about it this way: in nature, organisms change when their environment changes. The same is true for people. If people truly want to succeed and be a part of your company, they’ll conform to your culture. If they don’t, they’ll eventually be weeded out, one way or another. In terms of performance, this is a good thing.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference, I asked the audience members what factors they think drive extraordinary results in the following three high-performance environments: 1) the Olympic Games, 2) the singing competition American Idol, and 3) the weight-loss competition The Biggest Loser. Here’s what they said: 

  • Clear goals

  • National pride

  • Recognition

  • Coaching

  • Competition

More personal and world records are broken during the Olympics than at any other sporting event in the world. In a relatively short period of time, American Idol takes raw talent and dramatically improves contestants’ performance to create best-selling recording artists. The Biggest Loser, a show that features obese people competing to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight, dramatically changes lives fast. 

What is it about these environments that foster high performance? I believe it is their high performance culture. It’s the leader’s responsibility to create this culture, aligned with the company’s business strategy. That is how leaders set their teams up to succeed on a consistent basis.

Remember, culture is not what you want to be or what you aspire to be. It’s what’s true about your company. Every company has a culture, and it exists either by design or default. Is yours designed to win? Read more by downloading our white paper, “Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble.”

As a leader, how do you use clarity, competition, meaning, recognition, and coaching to inspire and propel your teams to succeed? Share your thoughts in the comments section.