As the head of a Sales Force Development company, I spend most of my time working with CEO’s who are addressing major sales issues in their business. Anyone who has run a sales force will know that sales issues are some of the hardest to address. As CEO’s we find it much easier to implement changes in production, administration or other operational areas where there is a very clear link between cause and effect; waste is easier to identify and eliminate in these areas.
The problem with sales is that to many CEO’s it appears to be a “Black Art”; it is often almost impossible to understand why the sales team are not performing. You can provide them with training or you can incentivise them with big commissions but often this makes no difference to their performance. The question that they need the answer to is WHY DOESN’T THIS WORK?
Whenever I talk with CEO’s about these sales issues my mind goes to two things, Australian Rules Football & Gordon Ramsay. It sounds an odd combination but I will try to show you how they fit together.
Having grown up in Melbourne I am a huge fan of the AFL and I have enormous respect for AFL Coaches and the impossibly difficult job that they have to do. The success or failure of their team is open to scrutiny every week. The results are up on the scoreboard for all to see. You either won or you lost; no argument. During the 2 hour passage of a game of football, every player on the field has a job to do; the job of the coach is to ensure that he has the right players in the right roles. If he sees that one of his players is being beaten by his opponent, the first thing he does is pull him off the field, talk to him to find out why he is not succeeding on the field, find out what he could do better and then send him back on. If the player still can’t cut it against his opponent, the coach has no choice but to pull the player out of the game and replace him in the best interests of the team.
From my perspective as a supporter, I want to see my side win. I know that a good coach cannot and will not tolerate poor performance on the field and I would be furous if he did. You only have 2 hours to win the game, I couldn’t care less if an underperforming player has his feelings hurt by being pulled off the field; tough luck, it’s not about you, it’s about the team winning.
Top coaches will trade players that are not performing or simply drop them from their lists. They may trade very good players that simply don’t fit into their plans in order to get a player who does fill a vital gap. Given the absolute nature of football success or failure, sentimentality cannot enter into it. You are being paid for success and every week that success is measured not only by you but by millions of fans.
Now, Gordon Ramsey. Ramsey has an excellent TV show called “Kitchen Nightmares” where he is brought into a failing restaurant with the sole purpose of turning it around. In one of the earlier episodes of the show he made a point that has stuck with me since. He said that the restaurant business has the clearest possible measure of success or failure and that is the number of people every night that come to your restaurant and pay for a meal. If they don’t come, you have failed and you go broke… really fast. You get it right, they do come and you make money. This is the ultimate accountability.
Football teams and restaurants are held accountable every single day by those that are prepared to pay to be there; it’s their ultimate measure of accountability.
Now if we go back to the business world, we find that most companies don’t have such clear measures of success. The initial signs of failure are not as transparent as they are on a football scoreboard or a restaurant cash register. This allows many CEO’s to delay making hard decisions and tolerate mediocrity or poor performance in the name of maintaining harmony within the company. They are more accepting of excuses from their Sales Managers as to why sales are slow and tend to accept the “Jam Tomorrow” predictions that they are given.
The truth is that they are on the same slippery slope towards failure as a bad restaurant or rubbish football team except without the transparency.
Just as coaches do, CEO’s must hold their players absolutely accountable for their performance, no excuses. They need to fill their company with “A” players and never accept mediocrity. CEO’s need to have outstanding metrics in place that measure LEAD indicators such as workrate, conversion rate etc. rather than just LAG indicators such as revenue and profit. Revenue and profit are outcomes, like the scoreboard at the end of a game; it tells you WHAT happened, not WHY.
Great CEO’s have an intimate knowledge of what is happening within their organisations at all times. They hold their leadership accountable and expect this at every level within their company. They know their players strengths and weaknesses and work with them to develop their potential. Above all else they field the best possible team with the greatest chance of success and are uncompromising in their performance expectations. They raise the bar and hold their people accountable.
Does this describe you?