Leadership
CEO:
Chief Energizing Officer

by Jim Pratt

   You are the CEO of your area of responsibility. You must take ownership of your part in the overall corporate mission. As CEO of Sales you need to understand and implement a very important concept. It is NOT the sales leader's responsibility to increase sales. It is his or her responsibility to increase the productivity of each sales professional.
   This is the implementation of leverage. Optimize profitable sales growth by leverage your selling skills in your sales associates. Sales leaders today must develop ways to thrive during times of constant change. Below are ten specific actions designed to gain peak performance from our most important resource our sales force.
   To paraphrase Churchill, never before have we asked so much of so few. John Hinrichs, President of the consulting firm, Management Decisions Systems, observes that "ten or 15 years ago we used to talk about job enrichment. Now we talk about job enlargement."
   This condition is reality in most industries today. Reasons for this stress-inducing striving for excellence include:

  • Corporate restructurings which have wiped out layers of managers without reducing the amount of work they used to do;
  • New technologies which eventually will lessen the need for supervisors and are currently causing tough transitions for many;
  • Increased competition coming from large, efficient companies, niche opportunists and low-cost producers;
  • Ever-present demand curve deceleration concerns;
  • The need to differentiate our products and services and maintain our margins.

   Our challenge as sales leaders is two-fold. First we must energize our associates so they can optimize their performance now. Secondly, we need to maintain balance and perspective in our own lives in order to have a proper working relationship with our associates.

YOU ARE THE MESSAGE

   Communication is based more on action than on words. If you come in Monday morning out-of-sorts, walk straight to your office without saying "hello" to anyone, and then shut the door in what manner will our associates answer phone calls that morning? We can't expect different behavior than what we offer as an example. "We are the message" in our companies. Here are ten things to think about and then proactively implement. If you think some of these ten "energizers" need to come from someone else in your organization to be successful, we remind you that leaders start where they are. Do these on your own and then see what happens around you.

  • Energizers set direction for their units by writing quarterly mission statements. As part of this process, the team commits to established values. Enthusiasm is generated within departments as they formulate their shared missions. Revising those statements quarterly rekindles that energy and commitment, while also providing an opportunity for each person to develop appropriate short-term goals. Planning's value is in the process, more than in the plan itself. Once your associates have "bought in" to your shared mission, you're on your way to success! A well-understood, unified team mission is a strong platform for success.
  • Energizers truly listen and thus are plugged in to reality. Useful suggestions come from competitors, suppliers, customers, front-line employees, trade groups, and your own mentors. Don't assume that listening is one of the things you do best. Booked calendars, busy travel schedules, and constant phone calls don't help us become better listeners. So ask yourself, "How much time do I spend truly listening?" One way to judge how much we value input is to figure the amount of time we spend in our officers, sitting safely behind our own desks. Most of us need to spend more time in the field. Start talking with your customers and then act on their suggestions. Lew Gerstner says, "A desk is an awfully bad place from which to view the world."
  • Philosopher John Gardner refers to what he terms "tough-minded optimism." Energizers possess such a spirit, which combines hope and realism as the driving forces in building a business. Focusing on customer needs also helps make this happen. "If it's meant to be, it's up to me" is the rallying cry for energizers who nevertheless remain prudent and balanced. They are neither foolish dreamers nor impassioned extremists. Instead, leaders are capable business builders who each day provide a message of optimism for those they work with. Again, "YOU ARE THE MESSAGE."
  • Energizers are forever thinking about and articulating their company mission and values. At least twice a year give a speech reinforcing what you and the company stand for. Nearly every successful leader relates the concern of repeating the same message too often. Yet his or her supporting team usually feels they can't hear such a message often enough. Studies have shown that more than 75 percent of employees rank information sharing as very important, whereas only half of all executives felt this was what their associates wanted.
  • Whereas procedure manuals give rules, company stories offer morals. "Storytelling's power is timeless," says author Tom Peters. "The marketplace is demanding that we burn the policy manuals and knock off the incessant memo writing; there's just no time. It also demands we empower everyone to constantly take initiatives. It turns out stories are a if not the leadership answer to both issues." Stories which in a simpler manner describe "who we are and what we do" influence thinking and action more than procedure manuals do. An energizer either wears, shares or entrusts to an associate the storyteller's role.
  • Energizers are bureaucracy busters. "Its no wonder we manage our way to economic decline," says Stanley Davis. "Our managerial modes don't suit today's business. We are still using the model GM founder Alfred Sloan developed for organizing corporate America back in the Twenties. As a result we have industrially-modeled organizations running post-industrial businesses." Energizers know the value of the motto, "If it's not broke, break it." They work outside normal rules, and thus stand out in the eyes of customers and their own associates. By unleashing your creativity, you can spark the energy within your organization. Even simple changes can mean a great deal to your unit or company. Take prudent risks.
  • Great benefits can be found in delegating without abdicating. Remain accountable for your group, but don't allow a decision to be made at a higher level in the organization than it needs to be. Your associates know the daily specifics of their jobs better than you do. Foster an environment in which they design their function in a framework consistent with the company mission and values. When someone asks you, "What should I do, Boss?", answer, "Give me the options and tell me which one you recommend." Make your associates responsible for the outcome.
  • Energizers understand the Pygmalion Effect. People usually accomplish what they believe they are expected to do. If we have high expectations as leaders, our associates probably will show excellent productivity. Build self-esteem.
  • Energizing and leading people is more powerful than managing a process. By building trust with associates and customers, a sales coach puts together the team described in his or her mission statement. Effective leaders usually are appreciated for their interpersonal skills, rather than for their managerial abilities. People care more about what is in a manager's heart than about what's in his or her head.
  • An energizer surrounds himself with associates who are positive and realistic, rather than negative. A "can do" attitude characterizes the energized sales leader. It is seen in the unwillingness to take "no" or "its never been done before" as an answer. Hiring wisely lowers production costs as productivity rises. Marketing expenses also go down, since fewer clients will be lost due to poor service. To make this possible, and energizer's mission statement should include minimum production standards and continuous staff training. You also should spend most of your time assisting your best producers, rather than motivating and supervising marginal salespeople. In addition, consider hiring an administrator to handle your routine paperwork, so that most of your efforts can be given to increasing production.

   The characteristic of energizers which moves organizations to their highest levels of performance is that of a dreamer. Fred Smith's college term paper was graded "impractical" but he used it as the basis for building Federal Express. Steven Jobs acted on his dream of having personal computers in every home and classroom.
   Energizers manage their dreams; each of us has a like capacity with regard to our business. If we resist change, we will only fall further behind. If we merely go along with change, then we will just keep pace with it. But if we create change, we will be the ones who lead it. Have no small goals. Get your associates Excited NOW!

"It isn't the strongest or even the most intelligent who survive. It's those who adapt the most quickly to change." Darwin. This means seeing your sales teams as human browsers that focus on unique customer segments. Supported by specialized back line units, who provide products, services, ideas and expertise to your sales professionals.