Originally published in Forbes
By Randy Illig
Your goal as a sales leader is to hit the bullseye on your sales target quarter after quarter, year after year, regardless of the variables affecting the market. Elusive and frustrating, yes, but it can certainly be done.
You may even know of a few sales leaders who perform with a high degree of predictability, reaching their goals regardless of what else is happening. What is it that they know or what are they doing to achieve that outcome? And how can you and your team emulate that performance?
It all begins with consistency — the key to moving from mediocrity to excellence. From there, I have six ideas that if understood and implemented lead to consistent results: P/PC Balance, Focus, Teamwork, Flash Point, Transparency and Willing Motivation.
P/PC (Production and Production Capability) Balance
Remember Aesop’s fable of the goose and the golden egg? Each morning, a farmer finds a glittering, golden egg beneath his goose, and he becomes extremely wealthy. Eventually the farmer, hoping to get all of the golden eggs at once, kills the goose, but of course, he finds nothing. And then he doesn’t have a goose or golden eggs.
The moral to this story is balance, and it certainly applies to a sales environment. Sales leaders always face tension between results and the ability to produce those results. Stephen R. Covey wrote, “Effectiveness lies in the balance, what I call the P/PC Balance. P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs. PC stands for production capability, the ability or asset that produces the golden eggs.”
In sales, the P/PC Balance is about balancing between two extremes:
- Extreme No. 1: Focusing only on golden eggs or the sales target (P). In the long-run, you lose your ability to produce results because you never nurture your production capability.
- Extreme No. 2: Focusing only on the goose, or sales skills and expertise (PC). Without short-term results, you will not survive (literally or figuratively) to see the long-term payoff.
Either extreme is a problem, so you must find a balance between the two.
After establishing a sales target, sales leaders need to identify how much of it they can achieve through their current momentum, which I often refer to as “lights-out revenue.” How much of the sales target is likely to happen by just continuing as is? Often the answer to this question is shy of the target, leading to a gap. The best sales leaders focus the majority of their energy at this gap.
Identify what individuals will do that is both predictive of closing the gap and influenceable or within their individual control. We call these lead measures. Then bring maniacal focus to the lead measures and the weekly activities that advance them.
I know, I know: we hear about teamwork all the time, but not often with this approach. Average leaders are coaches and teachers. Team members line up for their counsel, guidance and ideas. Great leaders, on the other hand, have learned that their job isn’t to only coach and teach, but rather to create more coaches and teachers. They develop a culture within their team where everyone contributes as coaches and teachers. This is true synergy, creating a powerful team of high-performing peers.
In chemistry, the flash point is the lowest temperature at which vapors will combust when given an ignition source. In business, the flash point is when the interaction between a sales person and a customer results in a successful outcome (as defined by the customer): a sales “flash,” so to speak.
While it’s true that everything a company has—its products, services, innovations, marketing—contributes to that flash point, a poorly handled sales call is guaranteed to result in a fizzle, not a flash. The result is that margins erode, client relationships deteriorate and the company’s reputation in the marketplace suffers.
The solution? Like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall, sales people have to practice, practice, practice—focused on the flash point of the relationship—where the value actually is created from a selling perspective.
Top leaders have a structure for planning, preparing and executing client calls and meetings. They expect team members to role play, practice, give and receive coaching from fellow team members.
In business, transparency often refers to inspection or compliance. But when building a high-performance sales organization, transparency means gaining a clear focus into the whole operation. This allows you to identify where things are going awry and implement real-time adjustments.
Transparency also enables all members of the team to know what each person is doing to move the needle. This transparency goes from top to bottom and in both directions, with everyone equally accountable. This unites everyone toward a common goal, which leads to the final component of a top-performing sales organization: willing motivation.
You want your team to be willing participants in the process, not performing out of a sense of duty or compliance. When people have a choice, they feel involved, empowered to use their skills in the most productive way and address any problems in their performance.
We often say “no involvement, no commitment,” and this means it can’t be a top-down approach. Rather, sales leaders must engage with their team in a way that wins their motivation. Common sense? Perhaps. But like the oft-heard saying, many things are common sense—but they’re not common practice.
In summary, these six ideas involve simple yet powerful strategies that, when done well, predictably produce success year after year, decade after decade.
Challenge for leaders: If the multifaceted and complicated strategies you’re using don’t achieve consistent high-performance, then change to a simpler solution. Simple is always better, is repeatable and is more to lead to you and your team reaching your sales goals.
Randy Illig is global leader of FranklinCovey’s Sales Performance Practice.