The sales organization of any sustainable and successful business requires immense adaptability. And because the sales organization often is asked to implement the marketing and business strategy at the customer level; it is paramount to be adaptable to changes within and outside of the business. The most successful sales professionals have adaptive leadership qualities. An adaptive sales leader (ASL) will know their numbers and are fierce learning machines. They swallow up new ideas like a great white shark goes after seals! They are hungry hunters of results and knowledge. And when you put the two together (results oriented and hunger for knowledge) they become powerful leaders for their customers. An ASL can adapt and change in order to create the desired outcome needed for their customer and company.
For sales managers and leaders the ASL is a dream come true. They are in short supply and you never seem to keep them for long if you don’t have a growing business. So, how do you build sales leaders and sales managers that value development of their people and the organization? How do you get them to value making their people’s development happen as much as they value making the numbers happen? Maybe a better question is how can sale managers and leaders adapt their work with employees, so that they make their numbers…or exceed their goals?
It seems silly to have to talk about the relationship with people and business results, but its not that silly. There are a host of business owners and corporate groups that “espouse” how they value people and their development. Yet, when it comes down to their actions they default to reaction and poor choices that harm the relationship with their customers and their people. How does any organization keep from making difficult decisions that will impact the morale and culture of an organization? One way to frame up the dilemma about being adaptive is really being more proactive. Reactive decisions have most leaders come down on the side of numbers every time over people decisions. Most likely this is the case because survival and our natural response to stress keeps us from seeing any other options.
I want to be clear. Business absolutely needs its “numbers”. The numbers represent a promise to many people in many ways. Not just to those that have invested in the business, but the customers as well. The realities of businesses needing to be profitable should be a “non” item. If you work for a company selling their products you are expected to be actively engaged in generating revenue and in some cases a profit. Revenue generators don’t worry about margins. Profit generators are asked to maximize margins as well. The latter is a higher value sales professional who can truly be an ASL.
In fact, adaptive leaders and particularly ASLs are all about the numbers. The goal, whether stretch or otherwise is what sets the relevance for the needed development and the defines the effort that will be required to achieve success. The challenge is to be proactive in how you develop to meet the needs of the business. It is all in how you “frame” it.
For leaders and stakeholders, it is having that powerful narrative about why these numbers relate to greater capacity to help the customer succeed and enables a company’s pathway to an ideal future. A successful sales professional knows that their numbers (at the end of any selling season) are just a reflection of their abilities, skills, knowledge, and commitment. A great product and some good wins help, but most luck is made and not found in the business of selling. Many of our poor decisions or missed results happen because of lack of honest and open communication and well practiced forethought.
I don’t think it is really that complicated. It is however, not easy to commit to being proactive. Being proactive means you need to be organized, strategic in your planning, and inclusive in how you involve others in your thinking and planning. Connecting with your people and business partners as a social interaction expert is just as important as connecting with company systems and process. Both are important. People and Process must work in concert and one can’t win over the other. They are intertwined and symbiotic to the success of each customer, individual sales person, and the company.
When the right people, the right processes, and the right conversations don’t integrate together you only have the numbers to look at. And no wonder they often look like they do. And no wonder we make reactive decisions….And no wonder why we wander all over the place looking for quick fixes…to a problem that could have been avoided…if we would have just stopped…and really focused on what the numbers really represent. Are our current people, processes, and conversations able to generate the results being asked of us? When the answer is truthfully…”no, they are not sufficient”…it often gets dismissed and we keep plugging away hoping somehow we will get lucky. And that is the definition of insanity.
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