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The pitch…

July marked the 50 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Do you remember who the salesman was?  You to remember his sales pitch?

Abraham Lincoln; Vince Lombardi; Lee Iacocca – what were these men selling?  How about these women – Clara Barton and Mother Theresa?

They weren’t sales people you say?

Nothing happens until someone sells something. 

Henry Ford

I too believe whatever the idea; the product; the service; the vision; the cause… well, this excerpt has a better sales pitch than mine:

“The Noble Art”

Salespeople Are the Knights of Business

With permission – by Scott DeGarmo

…noble means pre-eminent and selling is the pre-eminent business skill.  You can have every other element in place, but without sales you have nothing.  A Dun & Bradstreet study of the cause of business failure puts “inadequate sales” at the top of the list.

     Noble also means “of the nobility”, and salespeople are the knights of business.  While their colleagues skulk about the castle, salesmen and saleswomen get out there and make results happen in the real world.

    Like the noble knight, the salesperson has a mission, a crusade.  Belief in his product is his creed.  He knows it can work miracles for his customers.  He venerates his mission, aware that the more he learns about what he is selling, the more he can believe in it – and the more he believes in it, the more convincing he will be.  Not only does he collect great sales stories, he learns the best way to tell them…

     One who is noble is above petty concerns.  Salespeople act nobly when they keep their eyes on the goal despite the most ghastly frustrations.  Where mere commoners would react with anger, resentment, or dismay, the noble salesperson has the inner steel to be gracious and the ruthless resolve to remain ever sensitive to the client’s needs.  His concentration doesn’t waver when he is under attack.  Ego never gets in his way.  When necessary, he adroitly sacrifices real or perceived power in order to move the sale forward…

     Whatever is an art is also beyond the ability of another to fully dissect or reduce to a formula.  It smacks of individual virtuosity and creativity.

     It’s best when you don’t actually see the art involved in selling…  The individual actions of a salesperson, taken separately, may appear outwardly unremarkable.  Yet, the unseen talent used to weave together all the countless elements of a sale may be so ingenious as to …

     Scientists use the word “elegant” to describe their experiments, meaning they have no wasted steps.  Selling can be elegant in this sense when it concentrates the energy of the salesperson, when it eliminates needless activity in the selling process.  Salespeople can be brilliant at stitching together a day of phone calls, lunches, presentations, and follow-up letters.  The casual banter that elicits a piece of vital information can be a master stroke.  What a shame when salespeople are badgered and second-guessed by pettifogging managers, who could be much more effective if they encouraged, assisted, and pointed the way.

     A poem we once published had thoughts along the following lines:  A salesperson must have the quickness of an athlete, the fluency of an orator, the flair of an actor, the courage of a warrior, the acumen of a litigator, the insight of a psychiatrist, and the endurance of a saint…

What are we trying to make happen?  What’s our sales pitch to our children; our neighbors; our communities?

GAP

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Big Mike…

What is it about horses that capture our hearts?  Their size, power, and beauty are amazing.  Have you ever seen a horse running free?  Almost every morning when I let our horses out of the corral and into the pasture, Big Mike would run and buck and whinny.   You could see he just loved to run free on the few occasions now permitted!

Big Mike was a national hunter jumper champion.  And as can sometimes happen, his owner and trainer over did things; they over competed him.  My daughter-in-law Sierra rescued him.  She bought Big Mike for $1.  She’s been a horse lover for most of her life because:

The world looks wider from the back of a horse. 

Unknown Sage

When she brought Big Mike over, he could barely walk.  Both of his front cannon and pastern bones were riddled with micro-fractures.  He needed special shoes because the heels of his front hooves were crushed.  Standing 18 hands he was badly underweight; very shy; and the low horse on the pecking order in our corral.  Last to eat; first to be picked on; settling in was tough.

His first winter was a challenge.  While competing, he was kept in a heated barn stall during the winter.  He was barn stalled most of his young life when not practicing or competing.  Well, at the Pokorn Ranch our horses are outdoor horses.  They have loafing sheds for shelter but no heat.  So come winter, Sierra moved Big Mike into the indoor arena and blanketed him every night.

Then we found out he couldn’t get his feet muddy.  Mud would cause abscesses to form inside his damaged hoof walls.  So every time it rained – back to the indoor arena he went. He wanted to stay out with the other horses; would stand by the door; eye them sadly.  Who ever heard of a horse that can’t get its feet wet?

Slowly but surely Big Mike recovered.  He put on weight; grew a winter coat so he could stay outside with the other horses; didn’t have to be blanketed.  He held his own in the herd, too.  His last two years he could even get his feet wet.  In fact, rolling in mud puddles when it rained became his favorite activity!

Growing up in Chicago, we love being horse people now.  I feel we are part of the American West.  I write often about cowboys (which I am definitely not one); horses (and how sales prospects behave with a heard animal instinct); and the special type of love you develop with a horse.  It’s a different type than the love for our dogs, cats, and other fury family members.

I think it’s their eyes.  When you look into a horse’s eyes it’s as if they see through to your very soul.  No matter their size or power, it seems horses with those soft, dark eyes have an inner gentleness they can call on when in the presence of innocence:

In the world, love sometimes comes with heartbreak.  Big Mike went down from colic.  Colic is a general term referring to gastro-intestinal issues horses can die from.  Sierra had to have the vet put Big Mike down because he coliced and twisted his intestines 360°.  It was likely from rolling in a mud puddle.

Our heartbreak was necessary to relieve his intense pain.  Colic is irreversible and twists like he had, inoperable.  We only had Big Mike for five years.  July would have been his 10th birthday.

GAP

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Street cred…

There is a lot to developing and delivering a professional sales enablement program…

Prior to this year, I would describe my sales enablement work as “making it up as I go”.  Not that it was bad – just the opposite, actually.  The audience of our department’s efforts could not have been more complimentary about the practicality; real-world aspect; and effectiveness of our program.  One of our clients put it this way:

This is the first sales enablement program we have participated in that is delivered by someone who actually sold the products we’re being trained on. 

Matt Kenney

That was an acknowledgement of “street cred”.  According to Tom Stanfill and his piece, “The Six Pitfalls of a Sales Training Initiative”:

The person chosen to deliver the program is as important, and in some cases more important, than the content itself.

But I’m learning that content is important, too.  In my current role I am being exposed to a truly professional sales enablement approach for content development.  The scale and sophistication of the program our leaders are leading, and my colleagues are delivering is awesome!

As for me, well let’s just say I’m handicapped on the “engineering aspects” of instructional design and program development.  As a sales professional vs. an engineer I guess I am easily amused about my technology field.  Add me to the list of not daring:

Gallois’s Revelation

If you put tom-foolery into a computer, nothing comes back out but tom-foolery.   But this tom-foolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled, and no one dares to criticize it. 

Unknown Sage

Our output may be a bit “over-engineered” but I’m not criticizing.  What we are able to accomplish is amazing!  So, I’m learning more about engineering:

What does the optimist say about the glass and the water?” he asked.  “It’s half full”, was the reply.  “And what does the pessimist say?” he queried.  “It’s half empty.”  “And what does the process engineer have to say about it?”  Silence – until the consultant revealed the new additional answer: “Looks like you’ve got twice as much glass as you need there.” 

Unknown Sage

One pillar to our sales success is superior product engineering.  Technically, functionally, financially, I love representing our product line!  Or more accurately now – since I’m an enablement professional and no longer on the street – I love helping my colleagues compete with our arsenal of tools, tactics and techniques all built on a platform of product superiority!

Product superiority is nothing new to my company:

Jay Nussbaum, who had joined Oracle from Xerox in early 1992, summed up what Oracle’s product superiority meant to the sales force: ‘A dog with a note in its mouth could sell it technically’. 

Larry Ellison

OK, maybe a bit over-simplified; a little sales engineering might be appropriate.  We still need to enable our sellers with excellent content which is best delivered by people with street cred.  Back to Tom Stanfill:

The recommended standard is to choose a facilitator the participants would want to emulate.  When they throw out situations or challenges they face (sometimes the greatest learning opportunities) will the facilitator be able to respond in way that quickly builds credibility with the audience? Can they go off script and apply the model to any situation, based on real life experiences?  If not, buy in diminishes and the learning objectives are jeopardized.

Yes, there is a lot to developing sales enablement content.  There’s a lot to delivering it with credibility, too.

GAP

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Unchosen profession…

I listened to Bob Perkins, Founder of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) earlier this year.  He related the story of his son.  Bob is one of those industry titans – founding an organization that helps thousands and thousands of people in the sales profession.  He spoke at the Colorado AA-ISP Chapter meeting and I was there!

His topic was, “Why would anyone go into sales?”  He offered excerpts from AA-ISP research:

Most deals are lost…

Most prospecting doesn’t convert…

And 57% of sales people surveyed do not believe they can make their quota

Bob applied these facts to his son, who reluctantly found himself in a sales role a few years back.  Knowing his son and being an expert in the sales profession, Bob said he didn’t think his son would succeed; didn’t have “what it takes”; said his son “wasn’t very good”.

But Bob’s son hung in there; believed.  He adopted a repeatable selling process; practiced; tried, failed, and tried again.  Maybe he followed the actress Mary Pickford:

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Soon, Bob was his son’s guest at his first President’s Club recognition trip.  Bob said he thought that was probably a fluke.  Not long thereafter, Bob’s son was the #1 sales rep at his company.  Now Bob believes, too.

Sales is what we do when we can’t do anything else.  My Mom wanted me to be a doctor.  I was amenable right up to my sophomore year in college and organic chemistry.  That’s when my academic advisor asked, “Gary, what’s your second choice?”

Not that selling is bad – anything but.  Bob Perkins shared:

Sales people earn a doctorate degree in the anthropology and psychology of people.

Not to mention the perks of travel, trinkets and treasure for those who succeed.

Yet from a pros and cons standpoint, every pro needs to be earned.  Bob Perkins emphasized what sales reps must focus on:

People over process… Not networking but contacting… not leads but contacts… of which most are cold…

As Bob’s son proved, process is also key.  Sales professionals must master – and continuously improve – repeatable tools, tactics and techniques.  Just like six sigma and quality manufacturing principles.  More on that in a minute.

Sales people believe in Allen:

Allen’s Axiom

When all else fails, follow instructions.

We may not set out early in our career to become a sales rep, but many of us find ourselves in that role sooner or later.  And when we do, our answer to the question, “Why would anyone go into sales?” includes (among many other things) the personal and professional satisfaction of mastering business acumen; communications skills; the competition; and the recognition that comes from a job well done.  Plus, we get to be there along the way meeting great people and working with great companies.

I was there when Christopher Galvin led Motorola’s pursuit of the Malcomb Baldridge Award.  I sold them the human resource system they needed for attaining six sigma and quality manufacturing on a global scale.  I was working for Integral Systems, at the time.  Integral Systems was Dave Duffield’s second company, following Information Associates.  He went on to found PeopleSoft; and then Workday.  Dave is another industry titan and I was there, too!

Sales may be an unchosen profession but for those willing to hang in there; willing to believe; we get to be there!

GAP

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Curiosity; Cluelessness; & Authenticity…

True enough – that heading is a mouthful.  Conciseness is an art that does not come naturally to me.  Evidently, Pascal either:

I apologize for writing such a long letter.  I didn’t have the time to write you a short one.

Unlike Pascal, I was no child prodigy; anything but.  What I remember about my childhood however, built a foundation for my future sales career.  As it turns out, I am naturally curious coupled with being comfortably clueless.

I’ve always been comfortable with my cluelessness.  It drives my wife crazy though.  She is amazed I can make it home from work each day without getting lost!  But I digress…

Sales &Marketing Management © magazine is a popular read of mine.  In my opinion, the magazine offers thought leadership about my trade that is pragmatic; actionable; and backed by just enough science to avoid tuning me off as being too theoretical.

This article by Randy Sabourin, a specialist in helping teams and individuals communicate under pressure, caught my attention: https://salesandmarketing.com/content/every-great-conversation.  Permit me to paraphrase my understanding of his main point:

Attention – Curiosity – Empathy – Clarity are techniques to address the Avoid-Approach behavior many prospects portray when a sales person tries to contact, engage, and ultimately sell them.

More by accident than by plan, I have developed these attributes, and then some (e.g. cluelessness plus authenticity) that have served me well over the years.  But of them all, authenticity is crucial.

The TV character Colombo became symbolic of inauthentic cluelessness, true?  Everyone in the viewing audience knew his detective style was a façade.  In my opinion, our clients and prospects can detect inauthenticity coming a mile away.  That may trigger the Avoid-Approach behavior Randy Sabourin writes about.

So here’s the thing…  I believe prospects prefer sales people who are authentically curious about their needs and interests.  Prospects prefer sales people who give them our undivided attention (e.g. no multiple monitors; side chats; or multi-tasking of any kind).  My friend and former colleague Adam Katzenmeyer put it this way:

You only have to tell me twice, once.

Prospects prefer sales people who can participate in a business meeting grounded on business language vs. technical; acronym-laden; product pitch oriented; vendor-speak.  My company refers to this skill as “business acumen”.  We believe our people need it, but don’t yet have it.  I know I’m dating myself, but Irv Kupcinet called it:

The art of the conversation.

And here’s the “magic”!  When the prospect believes we are attentive to them; genuinely interested in their situation; make it easy for them to converse with us; and we come across as curious and empathetic to their realities… even if we are a little clueless, that’s OK.

Throughout my career I have had prospect after prospect notice how hard I was trying to keep up with them; trying to understand their needs; their priorities.  And when those moments occurred, they would “take me under their wing” and help me sell them!

It may sound backwards, but “closing” the sale actually begins best by “opening” the conversation.  If we listen – and if we’re authentically curious about the prospect’s business – they will tell us exactly what they will buy + when + why + how they will justify their investment.  They will literally close themselves, if we are skilled at opening up the conversation.

I’ve always been willing to let my prospects help me; being naturally curious along with being a bit clueless.  I’ve had no other choice.  But I’m curious… What about you?

GAP

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Research or opinion…

Information on an infographic from InsideSales.com caught my attention (InsideSales.com/BeExtraordinary).

We should treat research carefully, true?  On the one hand, I was once told that without data we’re just some guy with an opinion. On the other hand Cicero, Consul of the Roman Republic (and a man whose opinions ultimately led to his death) offered:

It seems to me that no soothsayer should be able to look at another soothsayer without laughing.

So with a disclaimer in mind that I know InsideSales.com has something to sell…  I still believe their research is worthwhile.  Here are a few highlights that are definitely not “OK”:

Only 43% of sales reps reach quota attainment

Only 28.1% of closed deals are predicted accurately 90 days out

Reps only spend 36.6% of their time on revenue-generating activities

82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared

This isn’t the only market research I’ve read that shows less than 50% sales reps are attaining quota and B2B decision makers think sales rep suck. (OK, my interpretation of their opinion.)  Who is accountable for this poor performance and negative opinions?

Let’s examine sales rep performance.  Does your company publish quota standings for all your reps?  And whether you do or don’t, is the idea of publishing sales performance a good idea or a bad idea?  I mean the peer pressure could add to sales rep accountability.  But is this approach to accountability good or bad?

Hmm, the accountability question brings this adage to my mind that I first heard from Russ DeLoach, then Senior Vice President of Sales for ADP’s Major Accounts segment:

Where you stand on an issue has a lot to do with where you sit.

When I sold for ADP’s National Accounts segment; and then led sales teams in Colorado and Utah for ADP’s Major Accounts segment, we received weekly sales performance reports – stack ranked – for every person in a sales role in the nation.  Rep; manager; executive; “no place to hide”; weekly!

Everyone, and I mean everyone, saw who was selling and who was not.  Those with a competitive mindset took the spur (or the sugar cube) to heart and strived to elevate their performance.  Others, well…

What do you think?  Is this approach to sales accountability appropriate for the 21st century?  Does your company follow this opinion?  Or are you thinking it’s too much?

Personally I believe, “winners keep score”.  But that’s just one man’s opinion.  There is research however, by Tanner Corbridge; How Positive Accountability Can Make Employees Happier at Work to suggest employees prefer accountability.

I’m aligned with Tanner’s point #1 about holding ourselves accountable vs. undo attention to others’ accountability.  He put it this way:

It’s extremely rare for an employee – or even a manager – to admit anything along the lines of “I’m a train wreck. Don’t count on me for much.”

I also believe in point #2 that “employee ownership” requires “employee responsibility”.  And point #3 is the force-multiplier; working for a meaningful cause.

I don’t mean a social impact cause that’s so popular these days.  Yes, social responsibility is a key value that I participate in too.  But what good does it do for employees to be socially engaged if their company goes poof because of poor performance.

So count me in on the personal accountability theme.  Stack rank me; push me; I’m accountable for my responsibilities.  This works for me and is best for the success of my company.  At least, that’s my opinion.  What’s yours?

GAP

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Friction…

I enjoy discussing and debating sales management “leading practices”.  Certainly, there are many opinions and many thought leaders that offer their knowledge and experience, too.  I suppose the opinions you align with are based on your context.

My context begins with sales managers and their sales reps epitomizing opposing forces.  I don’t mean we are enemies; but sales people and sales managers are often on opposite sides of things.  Lest your sales managers think they are “one of them” even if they used to be a sales rep, beware:

Coaches that worry too much about what fans think soon find themselves sitting with them in the stands. 

Unknown Sage

Now before going any further, permit me to acknowledge that my context and opinions about how things work may be very different than yours, and others’.  That’s OK:

Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own.  You may both be wrong. 

Dandemis

I remember many interactions where manager-rep “friction” occurred.  My first Presidents Club sales year as a “District Manager” (aka a sales rep) I worked for an “Executive-in-Training” (meaning he was hired from the outside vs. being promoted from within).  That created an opportunity to test our wills.

He ran Tuesday evening sales meetings and the rest of the week the District Managers worked out of sight, “managing” our districts.  We would come into the office periodically to file our paperwork.  (I know – the Dark Ages right?)

My manager fell into a pattern that every time I came into the office he would greet me with, “How’s your week?”  He wasn’t asking how I was doing; how the weather is; and was the family good…  He meant, how much business have I closed this week.  Friction.  I rebelled.

One day I asked him (told him, really) to stop.  I said, “Hello” is the greeting I would appreciate.  His approach made me feel that he thought of me only as my number.  I told him, “I am not my number”.

Years later I was on the sales manager side.  Walking a mile in his shoes was quite eye opening.  My Director and the VP above her were pounding on me for an updated forecast from my team.  “You-know-what” rolls downhill.  A rep of mine rebelled putting it this way, “Gary, no matter how much I sell it’s never enough.  You keep pushing the more button.”

Today, many sales managers have remote reps and as a result they have fewer face-to-face encounters which can cause additional anxiety.  And just when we thought the friction between managers and reps couldn’t get any worse, along came CRM.  Today, sales reps want to spend their time selling; sales managers want everything documented in the Customer Relationship Management system.

There are other examples … reps want “quality”; managers want “quantity”.  Many sales reps are conservative, sometimes to a fault, portraying pessimism about their forecast (aka “sand bagging”).  Sales managers push for optimism, and a higher commit!   Sales reps like building relationships; sales managers want to get in front of the prospect; close the deal; and move on.

I don’t know; maybe these opposing forces actually balance each other out.  Maybe it is the friction that actually drives an organization to sales success:

The highly successful use anxiety and stress to spur them on to achievement. 

Tom Hopkins

But balance is the key – too much friction on one side or the other can burn out the rep; or the manager; or even both, true?

GAP

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Independence – upheld…

Posted Jul 3 2019 by in True North with 4 Comments

Tomorrow, Americans celebrate Independence Day:

Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.

Wikipedia

We truly are:It’s today however, when Americans should commemorate the event that upheld our country’s independence; the event that prevented the United States from being cut in half; and the horrific toll paid for our independence and unity to triumph.

July 3rd, 1863 was the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Of all the Americans who have ever died in all the wars our country has ever fought, almost half – 620,000 – died in the Civil War.  And of all the Civil War battles, the one battle with the highest casualties was Gettysburg – 51,000 Americans.  And within the Battle of Gettysburg, Picket’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863 was the deciding, bloody clash.

I know in today’s society The Confederate States of America; their monuments; and their flag are easily vilified.  But 156 years ago, these battles were fought by Americans not by villains; by brave souls both North and South who believed their cause was necessary to preserve their country; their way of life.  They were committed enough that they were willing to die for it.

I believe every American should visit the Gettysburg National Military Park and pay tribute to the memory of those Americans that preserved the fate of our union.  Thankfully, that battle and a succinct commemoration by one of our greatest leaders, who also gave his life for his country, ultimately prevailed:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That day Abraham Lincoln spoke to unite all Americans, North and South.  Today, July 3rd, is the day to remember that it was on this day and on that battlefield that ultimately resulted in the United States of America remaining united.

May God bless you; and may God bless America!

GAP

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High stakes moments…

I attended a BrightTalk webinar titled, “What Sales Can Learn From a Navy Seal” recently.  It featured Stephen Drum, a combat-tested Navy Seal and senior enlisted leader.  He discussed what salespeople, sales managers, and sales leaders can learn from how Navy Seals prepare, practice, and perform in high stake moments.

Navy Seals – what comes to mind when you hear that term; combat; bravery; elite?  Navy Seals are engaged in high stakes moments for sure.  I was intrigued to see how sales, management, and leadership processes were going to be connected to their combat prowess.

To be clear; sales is not combat and the client is never the enemy.  Stephen Drum didn’t imply any different.  Selling is competitive but it is not life or death.

Stephen shared two points that resonated with my view of the sales profession.  Permit me to paraphrase:

There is a significant difference preparation makes between “responding” (you are ready) vs. “reacting” (you are not).

We all know that feeling.  Going into a high stakes moment, in our heart of hearts we know if we are prepared or not.  Interestingly, some sales people still succeed even without proper preparation – evidence for sure that the client is not an enemy.  Sometimes clients buy even when the sales rep sucks.  Sometimes.

When I go into a meeting or presentation unprepared I know it; I feel it; and it brings fear to my mind:

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. 

German Proverb

In fact, I just did a presentation that I wasn’t properly prepared for and you guessed it – I sucked!  Thankfully, it really wasn’t a high stakes moment.  But it reminded me of that wolf and what it feels like to be unprepared.

It’s our preparation that enables us to respond in high stakes moments vs. simply react.  The former is more likely to prove successful results; the latter sits on pure luck.  I don’t think managers or leaders want their company’s success to depend solely on luck.  Navy Seals don’t.

Stephen’s second point described a critical preparation process Navy Seals follow:

“ARR” – After Action Review:  How can I use this event and corresponding outcomes to be better, more prepared, the next time.

He described the rigor Navy Seals go through to prepare; practice; review; execute; review; modify; and then repeat the process over and over again.  This is a rare discipline seen in the sales manager and sales leader ranks.  It’s almost impossible for reps to “respond” (they are ready) when their managers feel it’s OK to “react” (they are not ready).  Too busy you say?

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? 

John Wooden

In the mind of the Hall of Fame UCLA basketball coach as well as a Navy Seal, there are no “do overs”.

The sales profession is a repetitive game and we all face high stakes moments over and over again.  But our clients and our competition are not stationary objects.  Their circumstances are constantly changing so we must too, agreed?  That’s where our commitment to preparation and “after action review” is key.

Imagine if our teams adhered to the principles of practice; preparation; execution; and after action review.  Imagine if our teams developed the reputation of being like Navy Seals; elite; the ultimate go-to resource; winners.  Imagine; but let’s not stop there.  If we all adopted the Navy Seal principles of “respond” vs. “react”, that would truly make our teams great!

GAP

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A matter of degree…

The Vice President of my department likes to say all sales people are all competitive.  I agree with her.  Although, I believe there are degrees of competitiveness among me and my brethren.  Not everyone is an “alpha”:

In studies of social animals, the highest ranking individual is sometimes referred to as the alpha.  Males, females, or both, can be alphas, depending on the species. 

Wikipedia

I was thinking about competitiveness and alphas while watching the recent NBA finals.  It was the night that the Warriors beat the Raptors by one point in Toronto – the night that Kevin Durant returned from being out for a month only to tear his Achilles tendon.

When KD’s injury occurred, others had to rise to the occasion.  If you watched the game, who did you think had the highest degree of competitiveness?  The Warriors’ “Splash Brothers” (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson)?  The Raptors Kawhi Leonard?  Did you think of Steve Kerr as being the alpha?  Did you know that prior to this season Steve Kerr was already an eight time NBA Champion?

Wikipedia’s definition of an alpha states it’s the “highest ranking” individual.  In competitive situations, we sometimes think of an alpha as the most dominant player, true?  The degree of Steve Kerr’s competitiveness certainly does not come across as dominant; anything but.

I enjoy the intellectual discussion of competition; dominance; greatness; and success.  So many individuals and so many great stories come to mind.  I bet you have your favorite example.  I doubt Steve Kerr is on it.  Maybe he learned from an all-time great alpha in Chicago.

No, I’m not speaking about Michael Jordan.  MJ was certainly an all-time, dominant NBA player; one of my favorites.  But he wasn’t the alpha of the Chicago Bulls.  Just like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were not the alphas on the LA Lakers; although their battle for dominance seemed the dominant storyline.

IMHO, the all-time alpha in the NBA was Phil Jackson.  I believe it takes an alpha to coach (or manage) dominant players.  You know, Phil was not Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’Neal’s first coach.  But he was the first – and only – coach for all of their NBA championships.

To be sure – Phil has a dominant resume!

2 NBA championships as a player for the New York Knicks

6 championships as the coach of the Chicago Bulls

5 championships as the coach of the LA Lakers

Oh, and 1 Continental Basketball Association championship as the coach of the Albany Patroons

I have a little experience in managing competitive people.  Not as much as Steve Kerr or Phil Jackson mind you.  I was a good sales manager, but learned during my 6 years with two different companies that there are degrees of competitiveness among salespeople.

As a front line sales manager I led teams of dominant personalities.  Don’t get me wrong; their ability and their individual accomplishments were awesome!   In one case their sales performance likely saved one small, family owned company; and in the other they led me to the sales manager of the year recognition for a huge, international company.

It’s very challenging to manage people possessing heightened degrees of competitiveness.  I tried and might have succeeded to be the alpha among them.  But I tired of their continuous battle for dominance; with me; and among their peers.

I admire the abilities, patience, and personas of Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson before him – alphas among dominant performers for sure.

GAP

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