I’m a fan of top performers. I love learning about them, figuring out what makes them tick and translating that into actionable ideas that can allow others to achieve top performance. I call this .1% Performance.
I remember learning about this concept from an ex-Blue Angels pilot, who shared the amazing things he learned and did as a Blue Angel. When you think about it, to be a Blue Angels pilot you have to be the best of the best…the top 1% of the top 10%. The same is true if you want to make it to “the show” in professional sports, or virtually any endeavor.
A while back, I was talking with a client/business owner about the need for salespeople to master the new paradigms of business. He asked me, “Just how important is it, really, to master it to the level your talking about?” My response to him, was that it depends on what game he wanted to play.
The challenge I’ve always had, is demonstrating visually what .1% Performance requires. I can easily point to the results of it, I just couldn’t articulate and show the real effort required to attain it. Until now.
My top sales coach, David Fletcher, shared this video with me. It comes from TCU’s baseball program. Every time I watch I get motivated. I think you’ll agree the attitude and effort shown here applies to more than just sports. My two favorites lines from the video:
- What is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way?
- Just make sure [your goal] is something you want, because the easy way out will always be there, ready to wash you away.
It’s the dream of many entrepreneurs. Coming up with that big idea, starting a business, growing it and ultimately selling for a sum of money that allows them to relax for the rest of their life.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve learned that there are, fundamentally, two types of business owners: those that have no desire to sell their business and are just looking to earn a nice (or substantial) income doing things they love to do; while others desire to sell their business, often viewing their business as the primary asset in their wealth creation efforts.
What I find interesting is that only about 10% of those owners that desire to sell in the future ever really stop to understand what really drives the equity value of a business. Unfortunately, the failure to consider this typically results in a business that fails to deliver either on its income or wealth creation potential.
In my experience, there is a major driver of equity value that is often overlooked, and yet it is the primary driver in the enhancing the long-term valuation of a business.
The ability to systematically, independently, predictably and consistently generate new customers, while protecting your margins is crucial to unlock the equity value of any business.
I will be writing more about this in the future here, but for now suffice it to say that if selling your business in the future, whether to an outsider, to your employees, or to your kids, it is critical that you develop a well articulated, consistent, predictable approach to the development of new customers. This ability will enable you to unlock the max value of your business, while also enhancing the profitability and income your enjoy in the meantime.
As many readers know, I coach college baseball. Last week the coaching staff got together because our team had hit little bit of a slump. We were trying to figure out why we had so much talent, but that talent wasn’t translating into the results that we expected on the field.
As the conversation progressed, I couldn’t help but get the déjà vu feeling that I had this conversation before, in the sales management arena. So often, too often for many small and mid-market companies, sales people who have talent and core ability to be extremely successful, yet they never meet their potential. This is a riddle that has confounded managers, trainers and consultants for years.
As we discussed the issue about the team, we came to the realization that not enough of the players truly hate to lose. And when I say hate to lose I don’t just mean that they don’t like losing, I mean hating to lose more than you enjoy winning.
Top performers in virtually any endeavor, share a common attribute – they loathe losing. Be it basketball, football, baseball, business or sales, top performers work hard, pay attention to the little things, learn and constantly improve because the feeling of a loss is simply detestable.
Everybody enjoys winning, and there are few people that I’ve met that dislike losing. The question to ask when assessing your salespeople is just how much, and what, are they willing to do to stay out of the loss column.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how losing is part of the growth and success process. Since that post, I’ve received a lot of feedback. The vast majority of it has been absolutely on point and I’ve been excited to hear some of the stories that have been shared with me.
The post, however, is not an excuse to accept losing. When interviewing, managing and motivating salespeople, be on the look out to determine which camp they fall in – the ones who just enjoy winning or the ones that abhor
This book review originally appeared in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia SmartCEO Magazine.
I’m often asked what I believe is the most important trait to succeed in sales or business. Anyone who knows me knows my answer – business acumen. Today, more than ever, those individuals who possess business acumen have a tremendous advantage over those that don’t.
This is especially true in sales. It’s funny (sad really), but if you were Rip Van Winkle having just awakened from a 50-year sleep, and you walked into most small and mid-market sales organizations, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
All too often, sales reps are making the same boring phone calls and making the same mindless pitches chasing fewer and fewer dollars. Sales managers track the same activity numbers that have absolutely no correlation to sales success whatsoever.
Sales training budgets have increased much, and, what’s worse the focus of that training is still primarily on product knowledge and some version of sales skills. But, ask yourself this: Have the trillions of dollars that companies have invested in sales training, salesforce automation and marketing really paid off?
The results of the last four years clearly answer that question – they haven’t! If you look at any meaningful measure of business success, the news is bad. Profit margins, return on equity, and assets are down. Sales costs are rising, and price pressure is at an all time high as procurement departments have seized unprecedented power in buying decisions.
As an executive, you should remember two quotes that should be at the top of your mind when you look at your sales efforts:
- The problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them – Albert Einstein
- The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again, and expect a different result – Thomas Edison
It is crucial that you stop, and ask yourself what are the critical components that will allow your salespeople to be insanely successful? Don’t stop at the clichés like personality or persistence. Sure, those characteristics are important, but they do not cause success. There are just as many (or more) personable, persistent salespeople that fail as those that succeed.
If your products and services require a meaningful investment from your customers or you claim to make a significant impact on customer’s results, there are two critical pieces that absolutely must be present: business acumen and judgment. These characteristics are really flip sides of the same coin, as good judgment comes from business acumen. If you want to break free from the commoditized treadmill, where so many small and mid-market companies find themselves, you must develop business acumen in your salespeople.
Kevin Cope, author of Seeing The Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career and Company and founder of Acumen Learning, defines business acumen as the “keen, fundamental street-smart insight into how your business operates and how it makes money and sustains profitable growth, now and in the future.”
Businesses are complex, and the issues they’re dealing with face greater and greater complexity. One small problem or change can have a ripple effect through the entire company. The only way you can successfully cut through this complexity is to understand the critical drivers of a business. Cope point out five: cash, profits, assets, growth and people.
To get the action (and margin) that you most likely want for your products and services, your salespeople must be able to influence real decision makers in organizations. Seeing the Big Picture, accurately points out five abilities needed to do this:
- See the “big picture” of the organization – how the key drivers of a business relate to each other, work together and produce profitable growth, and relate to the “job” your product/service does.
- Understand important company communication and data, including (and I’d add, especially) financial statements.
- Use your knowledge to make good decisions.
- Understand how your products/services impact key company measures and objectives.
- Effectively communicate your ideas to employees, managers and executives.
While Cope’s book is written for the reader within a company, the book is a tremendous resource for developing business acumen for any application. It’s a book you should give to every salesperson.
It’s been a while since I shared some of the insights of our Weekly Fast Growth Tips. Last week we completed our focus on successfully hiring salespeople, and this week we begin a new focus on the secrets to shortening your sales cycle. If you’re not already subscribing to these tips, here’s an example of what you’re missing. You can subscribe to our tips here.
This week we begin a new focus for The Weekly Fast Growth Tip: shortening the sales cycle time. Shortening sales cycles should be a primary objective for every company looking to sustain growth.
As a matter of fact, one of the primary indicators to determine whether your company is being commoditized is what’s happening with your sales cycle. Longer cycles are a clear indicator that you are in the middle of The Commodtization Trap, while shortening cycle indicate that you’re bypassing commoditization.
To shorten the cycle, you must first understand what it is. Too often, selling organizations confuse the sales cycle with the pipeline cycle. So, let’s define the terms:
- The pipeline cycle begins when the selling organization becomes aware of an opportunity or target it wants to pursue.
- The sales cycle begins at the first opportunity that a qualified prospect has, to become aware that you, the seller, exist.
This means the sales cycle begins:
- before the seller is aware of a prospect, and
- often before the prospect is even aware they need something.
Only about 3 – 7% of the prospects in any given market are actually looking for solutions. So, the first secret to cutting sales cycle times is the ability to connect with prospects before they in an active buying process.