multiplier by practicing and teaching sales as a leadership competency – essentially sales transformation. We discuss sales, growth or companies, and how to deal with recessions. He started his career working with venture-backed groups, learning how to sell items people didn’t know existed for problems they did not know they had. What became transformational was his realization is inside life had to match his outside life. He set out on a path of personal transformation.
Learning to live with vulnerability while pushing forward to be successful was a key lesson learned if he was to achieve his goal of creating change.
The conversation shifted to a very key question, “When do people buy?” Answer, “When they are willing to change.” So, instead of focusing on the transaction good salesperson focuses on determining where the prospect “is” with regards to willingness to make the change. Is their willingness to change large enough and does it align with the product or service the salesperson is bringing to the table. This context James believes everyone has something to sell, e.g., apparent convincing a child to wear a bike helmet when it isn’t cool. It is similar to an IT unit selling their ideas/products internally.
The challenge is creating a conversation which supports exploring whether or not the product or service is valuable for the prospective client. If the opportunity is not present then the salesperson needs to have the courage to move on.
In order to be fully present to see if that conversation can be created is critical to move away from thinking about what one can do (this is especially important for organizations overall) to thinking about the “why” that is driving the buyer to consider a purchase. Selling the “what” (the specific product) is a misdirection. It’s determining what the “want” is that is motivating the buyer which needs to be determined and connected with. The challenge can be present when objections get in the way of making the connection, e.g., having the child see for themselves it’s best to wear the bike helmet when they initially don’t feel it’s very cool, e.g., showing them that if they have a concussion they won’t be able to engage in all the other activities they enjoy. It all revolves around the question, “Why change?”
Essentially, this means an authoritative approach will fail. In other words, it’s better for a manager to work with the employee to show how it’s in their best interest to make the needed change rather than use the weight of their authority to force it on the employee.
James presses home the important point that leadership is earned if effective change is to be brought out through the sales process.
The conversation shifted to the next recession and how to maintain a growth frame of mind. A delicate balancing act is required between the growth and preserving what’s already in place. James responded by saying it’s important to always maintain a curiosity even during difficult times. This is the path to change. He goes on to say that there are two ways we can change:
– have it forced upon us due to complacency and have decisions forced upon us while in crisis, or;
– walk the path of curiosity so the decisions can be made with clarity. This is the path to growth.
Making decisions based on curiosity even when times are difficult is the key to growth. Market leaders have cultures built around innovation which is based on curiosity.
This led to a discussion focusing on culture and its relationship to recessions. This included the mission statement (the customer and their problem that needs solved) and the vision statement (our internal goals and how we plan to reach them). Leaders must have the ability to see what’s on the horizon and plan accordingly. This means finding a balance between having an abundance-oriented frame of mind while being realistic as to business realities associated with the recession. From this balance point employees need to be scored according to their level of performance. This means that regardless of the external economic realities leaders are curious and always looking for ways to innovate even when there is a temptation to fall into the fear associated with the recession. Healthy leaders score their employees based on innovation rather than conformance with the past.
So the abundance-oriented leader when going into a recession must:
– allow employees to innovate and make mistakes that come at some cost
– conserve resources sufficient to make it through the recession
James refer to one of the mantras on his website, “We solve sales problems and we build growth cultures.”
The conversation then turned to a cautionary tale regarding strengths. One of the ways a leader can hide is by focusing only on strengths and failing to address weaknesses. This, essentially, this can be the kiss of death during a recession. In order to innovate one must address your vulnerabilities in order to grow.
Gary presents the model used by Center for Managing Change to delineate the three types of change environments and the conversation shifted to how important it is to be honest about vulnerabilities and weaknesses in order to maneuver through the changes and establish a new state of stability via innovation. In line with this, adrenaline and testosterone mask fears and can actually accelerate failure.
In order to achieve growth through innovation James teaches sales as a leadership competency. In line with this the conversation shifted again to an aspect of Gary’s coaching course for dissolving fears and achieving abundance, i.e., in addition to identifying the fear one must also identify the habits that protect that fear and choose a new way of being so that the fear can be dissolved and innovation introduced and supported. An example is provided revolving around fear of public speaking. The leader can work on addressing their fears by risking performing a “360.”
In line with this James brought up the famous quote, “What brought you here won’t get you where you want to go.” Which needed to stop plateauing or even shrinking is having the courage to look and see what the leader doesn’t know and generate the insight needed to move forward. This requires leaning into the fears and vulnerabilities. James then moves on to say that in doing this work is critical to pay attention to the classic S shaped growth curve and work on innovation before the growth plateaus. This is where the use of third-party consultants, outsiders who can be objective, is beneficial.
Working in this manner then requires performing risk management in an objective way in order to move away from the emotionality associated with fear and complacency.
Gary provides a cautionary tale from the past regarding the now-defunct automobile manufacturer Studebaker which originally made wagons for moving westward in the late 19th century. They woke up to the transition to the internal combustion engine too late and were able to only grab a small segment of the market and, even though they were great innovators in the automotive market, they went out of business because they were too slow to move when the time was right.
James astutely pointed out the mistake Studebaker made was being product-centric rather than customer-centric. This leads to the reality that the leader needs to pay attention to whether they are being truly customer-centric or if they are fooling themselves by doing more of what they are already good at doing. Innovation is always customer-centric. This mistake in the leader’s belief system can be reflected in continual use of various consultants without making genuine progress.
The conversation concludes with the awareness that consultants must first determine the belief system present within the leader and the organization to see if it aligns with and innovative frame of mind that is customer-centric, then work on skillset, then work on toolsets.
In line with dealing with complex situations, you can download CMC’s free e-book MINDSET – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO LOOK AT COMPLEX PROBLEMS and learn how to find a simple vantage point from which you can resolve challenges.
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