Uh, Houston? We have a problem.

EarthUh, Houston? We have a problem.

Those immortal words have been used as a punch line to many situations, but their original utterance was of the most serious matter.

Made famous by a Hollywood movie, the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 were definitely not laughing when they contacted their support team a trillion miles away. (Okay, actually more like 200,000 miles. But it might as well have been a trillion miles. And since we’re checking for historical accuracy, the original quote was, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Okay. I feel better now.) An oxygen tank had exploded, increasing pressure inside the service module and causing a 13-foot panel of aluminum skin to pop off. Actually, the pressure caused the bolts attaching the skin to pop off. (Side thought: Can you imagine how much pressure it would take to pop one bolt – let alone all of them? Wow.) Fortunately, the problem was addressed and everyone got home safely.

What I love about this story is actually the way that they solved the problem. It is a perfect illustration of what we – and our clients – should be going through.

(By the way, I made every step end with “-tion.” You can enjoy that free of charge.)

Step one of problem-solving is actually problem creation. Seriously. If no problem exists, no solution is needed. Go sell some place else, because the opportunity to help is non-existent. But here is the obvious tricky part. Problems don’t just pop up out of thin air. They are created by a combination of factors (pressures, trends, people, etc. – what my colleague Tamara Schenk likes to call “forces”) that produce expectations. Expectations that have to be met. And it becomes a problem when there are limited alternatives to meet those expectations. It becomes a big problem when those unmet expectations are significant, AND there are still very limited alternatives to meeting them. So you HAVE to know the expectations and alternatives involved. Here’s the best part. If you can see how the problem was created, even if the client cannot, you will be given the best chance of helping solve the problem.

This also means that you are going to have to create a habit outMagnifying Glass of generating insight and being curious. You cannot just generate insight when the client asks for it. You must know their business as well as, if not better than, the client. Talk to random people. Mingle with the front lines, the back office, and executive row. Ask questions. LISTEN. Be ready to enter a discussion about problems meaningfully.

Step two of problem-solving is problem identification. By the client. This is critical. If they don’t see the problem (or worse, they don’t care), there is very little you can do from this point onward. You must help the client see the problem. The most common obstacle to this is when the client sees a portion of the problem, but not the bigger problem itself. There they are, picking at the leaves at the end of a branch, while the root system is just growing and growing. Great problem-solvers follow the branch to the trunk, then down into the roots until they see the problem in its entirety. Then they expose the roots to the client so that the problem can be officially identified. When the problem is small, this is relatively easy. But when the problem is complex, it can take much longer than originally planned, involve more people than originally wanted, and require more resources than originally set aside.

And God forbid that your own team doesn’t want to solve the problem. They’ll whine moan provide so-called “feedback” that things are taking too long, involving too many people, and wasting resources. Such people are actually not interested in solving the bigger problem. They’re picking at the leaves of a different branch. To make the owner of that branch happy. While you are trying to work with the owner of the tree. Have fun with that.

Step three of the problem-solving process is solution generation. As my co-author, Brian Lambert, likes to say, “You have to anchor your solution against the problem. Once you have that anchor point, your solutions are legitimate. Without that anchor point, your solutions simply… aren’t.” Using the problem as your anchor point allows you to brainstorm multiple ideas that all help. You may not be able to use all of these solutions. That’s okay. Just keep trying to solve the problem. Ask yourself, “Does this address the branch, the trunk, or the roots? Am I only working at one part of the tree? Do I need to expand my (and my client’s thinking) about how to solve the problem?” DON’T limit your thinking to just what is real. DO expand your thinking to include the possible.

Step four of problem-solving is solution selection. It’s pulling all of the requirements, the risks, the limitations, and resources together to select the solution bundle that solves the problem best. And I used the term bundle on purpose. Because the “solution” is usually as complex as the problem and will involve multiple components. And, perhaps most critically, one of those components is time. Which means that the solution to be selected may be only phase one of other, future phases. Just get that phase started. AND get the client to understand (and agree) that other, future phases will be needed to fully solve the problem.

Step five of problem-solving is solution implementation. If step one is paramount, step five is a photo-finish second place for the overall experience. My belief is that everything looks great on paper until people get involved. (I know. Ponder THAT for a moment.) Here’s where we come in. And where we can provide real value. Getting the execution of a solution to step out of the realm of words and into the realm of reality is massively hard. We can help Future signcommunicate not only the solution that has been selected, but also the problem we are trying to solve. We can help optimize the context that the solution has to live within. By just pausing to look 6 months into the future, we can identify potential obstacles and even potential encouragements that will impact implementation. Getting the people and resources prepared for these factors is not just pro-active, it’s smart. Because you always implement to the future reality, not the past reality.

Step six of problem-solving is solution evaluation. But I am not suggesting simple metrics. Great evaluation requires great insights. You don’t get insights from dashboards. You don’t get insights from answering, “Did the problem go away?” You have to know WHY the problem went away (or didn’t). You have to know WHO made the critical difference in the process (or didn’t). You have to know HOW the solution addressed the problem (or didn’t). Without these kinds of insights (and more), you are going to not only miss the opportunity to get credit for solving the problem, you are going to miss the opportunity to learn from the problem-solving experience, to acquire the ABSOLUTELY MOST IMPORTANT, CRITICAL, VITAL, ESSENTIAL, VALUABLE THING in the world – wisdom. Because wisdom solves problems in a way that skills and talent never can. Wisdom drives great decision-making. And if you are a great decision-maker, Life (not just business) will come to you.

And THAT is a thought we can all ponder for a good, long while.

I mua. Onward and upward.

by Tim Ohai

I Can’t Say It Any Plainer: SOLVE the @$%! PROBLEM!

I was having a discussion with an organization I am helping and we gotWorried about money to talking about how to get their desired improvements going. One of the folks at the table declared, “We just don’t have enough money.”

I about fell out of my chair. But instead of yelling the “NO!” that was screaming inside my head, I just said, “You are defining the problem incorrectly. It’s not that you don’t have enough money. Your problem is that you don’t make enough money.”

And in this particular case, that was especially true. Their entire economic model was built on a reality that was most relevant in the 1970’s. THAT’S 40 YEARS AGO! That’s almost half a century. And most importantly, it is not relevant to today’s reality. The current economy, the current value offered, the people they employ, and especially the people they serve are radically different. With different expectations and different alternatives to meet them. And this organization is spending a TREMENDOUS amount of energy, resources, and time to figure how to solve the wrong problem.

Sound familiar?

Which leads me to today’s rant.

In professional selling, we started with emphasizing the selling process (which was an 1800’s invention). Then, we got smarter – as our clients got smarter – and emphasized the buying process (which was a 1900’s invention). Now, in the glorious Information Age, we have a major shift to make in our thinking. We have to emphasize the problem-solving process.

Rabbit holeFollow me down a rabbit hole for a moment.

I understand that you need a solid selling process. Having a process ensures that your selling activity is repeatable. But I also hope you agree with me that your selling process has no value if it doesn’t align with your client’s buying process. Goodness, if your selling process ignores the buying process – well, you’re an idiot. But I said that with genuine condescension love.

Today’s buyer (and the buckets of research that back this up) does not want to “buy,” per se. They want to solve their problems. And they may or may not be very good at that. But if you know how to solve problems, and you are able to understand how they are trying to solve their problems, you will have the best opportunity to sell.  Why?

Because buying is a subset of the problem-solving process. It’s an option that problem-solvers may or may not get to while they are tackling a problem. But if you know how their problem-solving process works, you are setting yourself up for two very important things.

First, you are being set up as someone who actually knows how to solve problems. And to develop your reputation as a problem-solver. Once you tap into your client’s problem-solving process, clients will call you/bring potential business to you because of your reputation and skills. This is the very BEST way to develop new business opportunities.

Second, if you know your client’s problem-solving process, you will then know how to influence their buying process – when that option presents itself during the problem-solving experience. You will be given access to the real problem to be solved, shaping the expectations that fuel it AND highlighting the alternatives that will solve it.

And this is what today’s seller should be focused on. DO NOT start with the selling process. DO NOT start with the buying process. QUIT being so 1900’s in your thinking.

DO start with the problem-solving process. Because if there’s no problem that your client really needs to be solved, whatever needs/pains/worries/concerns you are looking for will be at best misleading and at worst a giant hole that sucks all success from your selling activities.

DominoesOnly then, once you have tapped into your client’s problem-solving process, you can crack the code on their buying process (which, by the way, will be different depending on the complexity and priority of the problem to be solved), so you can then build a really solid selling process (which, by the way, is an oversimplification, because there is never just one, singular process to manage in the selling experience). Now THAT is good selling.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

Have you ever seen a monkey get angry?

Angry monkeyHave you ever seen a monkey get angry? It’s not a pretty sight.

I spend a fair bit of time in Africa each year. On one of my trips, I went on a safari. (Note: once you’ve seen animals in the wild, you’ll never want to visit a zoo again.) During that day, my group and I pulled into a rest area to eat lunch. Guess who was already waiting for us. Yep. Monkeys.

At first, you think they’re cute. Then you watch them for a while and you slowly realize that they are filthy little thieves/opportunistic punks. They have all figured out that when humans show up with a bag or box, there WILL be free food inside. I can’t actually blame them. I certainly would rather shoot for a free meal by dodging tourists than dodging predators. Besides, some dumb tourist will eventually hand the food over as a gesture of inter-species goodwill. Suckers.

And by suckers, I’m explicitly talking about the humans. Because once a human gives even the tiniest portion of food away, I’m convinced that a telepathic message is sent to the rest of the entire monkey colony saying, “We have a target. Take your positions.”

So I watched this whole thing play out, observing with the typical curiosity that we all have while watching a train wreck. A tourist “successfully” gave a monkey a bit of food. The thieving scam artist monkey sat there, happily munching on the food while “patiently” waiting for more. What did the tourist do? Told his friends to come over and “bring the camera.” But as soon as the small group turned their attention to the deceitful nice monkey, a handful of other monkeys rushed in, grabbed their plastic grocery bag full of food and drinks, then tore back to the bush to split their new found booty. The tourists only caught on to the ruse at the last moment, chasing after the monkeys unsuccessfully, while the original monkey slipped away to enjoy the spoils with his mates.

But here is when the most interesting part happened.

One of the monkeys grabbed a plastic bottle of juice. And he couldn’t figure out how to open it. At first, he just sat there, looking at the bottle then looking at his friends then looking out into space then looking at the bottle then looking at his friends again. After he tried biting it and pulling on it a couple of times without any progress toward opening the bottle, he started to get angry. Really angry. He showed his fangs, screamed until his friends looked at him, and threw the bottle down. When it wouldn’t open after that, he suddenly acted as if he was scared of the thing, scooting away in short bursts, alternating between short screams and backwards scooting, until he was “safely” away from the bottle (which just lay there, on its side, collecting dust).

So why did I tell you this story?

Because it illustrates two VERY important principles.

First, it shows what I call the definition of a problem. What you may see as a monkey and a bottle, I see as a set of unfulfilled expectations with limited alternatives to solve them. This is the essence of a problem.  The size of the problem is determined by the size of the unfulfilled expectations. The bigger the unfulfilled expectation (or more likely multiple expectations), the bigger the problem. If you shrink the expectation(s), you shrink the problem. Anyone ever have a big deal suddenly disappear because “priorities” have changed”/expectations have gotten smaller? The problem was no longer a big enough issue to put energy into solving.

But expectations are only half of the formula. For a Problemgenuinely complex problem to exist, it must have limited alternatives to fulfill the expectations. In other words, a set of big expectations that are lying unfulfilled (like missed revenue targets, spiraling expenses, uncontrolled personal risk, etc.) must have limited alternatives to address whatever unfulfilled expectations need attention. The alternatives to deal with the expectations must either be limited or suddenly taken away.

If I took you into the African bush for an overnight adventure, you would have all kinds of expectations – with safety being your first priority. But as long as I gave you options to address your expectations, there probably wouldn’t be any problems (except for those of you who can’t stand camping of any kind, because you’ll complain about everything no matter what). But if I started taking away the options that meet your expectations, what I am calling your alternatives – like the fence around the camp, the armed guides, the electricity, and so on – your experience would go from exotic vacation to Jurassic Park nightmare.

The same thing happened to the monkey. His expectations of a free drink were increasingly stressful as he could not find an alternative to fulfill his expectations.

Which leads me to my second point. This story shows how people typically respond when complex problems create stress. Certainly, we are not monkeys, but we can sure act like them Stresssome times. When we become stressed by a significant problem, we can shut down (freeze) like the monkey did at first. We look at the problem, we look at our friends, we look out in space, we look back at the problem, and so on. While our brains sit frozen. And the pressure only increases. So we can become combative (fight). We lash out. At anyone. Or anything. We get angry, hoping our emotional energy will somehow create an alternative magically. Which doesn’t work. So we can withdraw (flight). We run away. We hope the problem will go away while our attention is put elsewhere. While we we ignore it completely. While we get as far away as possible.

This also makes me think of our customers. They are struggling with complex problems. They may not even be acutely aware that the problem exists (which makes your skills at uncovering expectations and alternatives EXTREMELY important), but they are surely feeling the effects of the problem. Because they are stressed out. They are frozen, fighting, or running away. Or a mix of all three options. And you can either be turned off by their reactions or you can recognize that the reactions are just that – the effects created by the existence of a complex problem – and put your efforts into addressing the root causes and being a problem-solver.

And effectively calm the monkeys down.

I mua. Onward and upward.

I ranted on Facebook again…

One of the most important factors of driving high performance is the concept of motivation.

DUH. Everybody knows that. So this rant is NOT about how to motivate someone. It’s about how to de-motivate them.

Demotivation is the exact opposite of motivation. Instead of inspiring action, one is squelching it. Turning off the will to choose. Literally crushing the desire to act.

It is perhaps equally … (continued on Facebook here)

When Your Credibility Sucks…

EmptyThere seems to be a lack of credibility these days. And it’s actually quite disturbing to me.

Whether we are talking about the government, business, or even sports, it is amazing to me how folks think that they can ignore their own stupidity mistakes and still maintain their drive to achieve success. Talk about a bunch of wasted energy.

Seriously. I am trying to be as explicit as possible when I say that credibility – check that – YOUR credibility is THE cornerstone of sustainable, scalable success. I am not talking about being a one-hit wonder. You know those folks. They are here one day and gone the next. Rather, I am talking about being the kind of person who establishes a reputation for continued success.

So… what exactly is credibility? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality or power of inspiring belief.” In our book, Sales Chaos, Brian Lambert and I defined credibility as “the result of taking responsibility for all the relationships, processes, and methodologies within your day-to-day (selling) activities.” If you blend these two ideas together, having credibility means that you have transformed your day-to-day choices into something other people believe in. In other words, people will trust you because of how you have:

  • Made ethical decisions
  • Managed your time
  • Respected others
  • Learned from your mistakes
  • Used your personal time
  • Etc.

That is powerful stuff. Landing the biggest deal of your life, leading a massive change, establishing (or repairing) a critical relationship – if you expect to do it more than once, you MUST rely on the credibility of your day-to-day choices. Otherwise, you are either relying on some past success that no longer exists or old-fashioned luck.

The impact of building/protecting your credibility is twofold. Football PlayerFirst, your impact as an individual increases dramatically. Credibility allows you to become a person of influence who can get things done through others. Credibility allows you access to real insights, getting past the obvious, so that you can make the highest quality decisions. Credibility allows you to drive execution, effectively managing the interactions between teams and getting the end result delivered as promised. Take credibility away from your influence, insight, or execution, and your overall impact will immediately start crumbling. Like Pres. Obama (and Pres. George W. Bush). Like former CEO of J.C. Penney, Ron Johnson. Like former Ohio State football player Maurice Clarett. You will become a lousy leader/sales person/coach/father/etc.

Football TeamSecond, your impact as an organization is just as tied to credibility as your individual impact is. The day-to-day habits of credibility when your company is small are just as important when your company is large. The quickest way to dissolve your impact in the market is to allow your day-to-day choices to slide. Ask Research In Motion. Ask Kodak. Ask Sears. Once world-championship level giants of industry, their very survival lies in whether they can change their destinies through their day-to-day choices.

Credibility also impacts the growth strategy of an organization. The ability of a start-up business to turn on repeatable, transactional sales rests on the credibility that start-up business established through one-off, high touch customer relationships. Credibility drives revenue. The ability of a church to increase its presence in a community rests on the credibility of what that church has already become known for doing. Credibility drives expansion. The ability of a university to gain the attention of next-generation students and donors rests on the credibility that school has built as a hotbed of innovation and continuous improvement/change. Credibility drives recruitment.

The bottom line is this: I cannot tell if a person/business/church/university/etc. is on the right track to sustainable, scalable success by looking at their results. Results, no matter how good (or how bad) only describe the past. And that past could just as easily have been driven by showing up at the right place and at the right time. ANYONE could have succeeded in that environment. If I want to really know if a person/business/church/university is on the right track to sustainable, scalable success, I will look at their day-to-day choices. How committed they are to building and protecting credibility – as proven by the quality and consistency of the day-to-day stuff – really is the difference between being lucky and being good.

I mua. Onward and upward.

How to Get the Anchor Off Your Neck

I’ve been on my annual pilgrimage the last couple of weeks to my childhood home. Of Hawai’i. I know.

During the handful of hours to sleep on the beach contemplate that I have at my disposal, I have been mulling over various ideas and theories that I affectionately call the chaos inside my head. (Yes, there are voices… but they are harmless).

One of the rants themes that keeps popping up is the idea that Do Not Changerunning/leading an organization (any organization – business, church, government agency, etc.) often becomes ensnared in what I will call the historic anchor. What I mean by this is that the definition of so-called “good leadership” is often boiled down to protecting history. To maintain the status quo. Or even building defenses to perpetuate the status quo. You know what that looks like.

Financial numbers are always set as a percentage of last year’s performance.

Popularity Attendance Participation becomes the key metric for defining success.

“The way we’ve always done it” is not so much a fact of history as it is an excuse to refuse change serve as the starting point for all new plans.

Frankly, none of these belong in the definition of healthy leadership.

Healthy leadership is certainly about moving in a new direction. Taking people to a place that they have never gone before. Not only moving the cheese, but taking on the responsibility for making the cheese.

The problem is that many folks take this definition of leadership and condense it to simply being about creating change. But creating change is not what sits at the core of healthy leadership. The core is about solving a problem. (Oh, here we go.)

Hear me out.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a consultant/strategist/coach is to get my clients to properly define the problem. As a sales person, it is the same principle. Clients will say they want one thing when they really need another. But if we can get that single piece of the puzzle nailed, if we can get the problem properly defined, we can do incredibly awesome things. But if the core problem is not properly defined (or worse, the wrong problem gets defined), all other activities – leadership, sales, and otherwise – are basically moot.

Which means that all the metrics, dashboards, and stuff-that-makes-it-into-the-weekly-conference-call are basically moot.

But we HAVE to have something to talk about, don’t we? So what do we often do? We talk about history. We talk about last weekend. We talk about last month. We talk about last year. And we anchor all of our metrics and other things against that history. Why? I don’t truly know. Sure, I have ideas – like…

  • We find comfort in the simple act of “knowing”
  • We believe that the past is the best way to predict the future (even though the present is constantly evolving)
  • We are afraid of the consequences of not having answers/not being able to predict the future
  • We make stuff up create information to discuss and to motivate others to follow us

Whatever our motivation(s) may be, I would like to offer a different way to look at this topic.

Instead of looking at our role in running/leading an organization with the lens of history, we should look at our role with the lens of “is the problem going away?”

UpBecause, if we are doing a great job, the problem will either go away or evolve over time (because it cannot maintain its current state under our relentless attack). This means that sales projections should not be based on prior year performance, but on what stage the problem(s) our products/services exist to solve is in. This meansDown that church programs should not be based on a monthly or annual calendar, but on what stage the problem(s) our church programs exist to solve is in. This means that the budget for the government agency should not be based on what was spent last year, but on what stage the problem(s) our government agency exists to solve is in.

Imagine it this way: a business that sells a specific product actually begins each year by defining the current state of the problem their product addresses for their customers. Is the problem in the early stages of being addressed, has it reached the tipping point of decline, or is it somewhere in between? Not only is the strategic plan for the product anchored against this state of the problem, but also everyone is given goals that either attack the problem or drive the identification of a new problem to solve for their customers. The annual sales meeting does not kick off with the previous years’ sales results, but with the state of the customer’s problem and how the sales organization is going to tackle it for them. Metrics and dashboards are calibrated to track not only sales results, but also how the team is doing in relation to addressing the problem (which helps to illuminate if the sales team is doing better than the competition in solving the problem – or is simply getting good numbers because the opportunity to solve the problem is so wide open). Hopefully, the company develops a reputation as THE player to solve the problem. Until the problem is gone or changes, and a new cycle of innovation takes over.

I really believe that this kind of clarity – about the problem to be solved, not history – will allow organizations to thrive. Genuinely good things will be done. People will have focus on their activities in a new way, regardless of role in the organization. People will be proactive, knowing how they contribute to solving a problem beyond simply showing up to “work.” Strategies will have focus on their impacts in a new way, regardless of function in the business/church/government. Strategies will be on target, driving toward a future reality that is measured by effectiveness – not history. And tactics will have focus on how they are used, regardless of their reputation. Tactics will be relevant, fitting each situation appropriately.

And with people, strategies, and tactics thus aligned, our organizations create a world where instead of adding to the complexities of the problem(s) we are responsible for, we actually solve them.

What a concept…

 I mua. Onward and upward.

Communication Is a Dirty Word

Cool Hand LukeThere is a classic scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke where Paul Newman is beaten down by a cruel warden, who then utters the famous line, “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.” Ever since that moment first appeared on the silver screen, it has become imbedded in our vernacular.

I just wish a failure to communicate was the problem we often rely on claim it to be.

You see, I can’t tell you how often I hear serious weight being thrown behind things like communication breakdowns, communication gaps, miscommunication, and so on. I even use the “c-word” when I want to oversimplify the problem. But communication is not the issue. Information flow is. Let me explain.

Communication is about you speaking and me listening. And vice versa. It requires that we both participate at the same time. It is a very active kind of interaction. As soon as one of us is not available (or no longer interested), communication starts to break down. So what do we do? We push people to stay actively engaged with the communication. We get louder. We get creative. We even get repetitive… just in case you weren’t listening the first few times.

But in today’s extremely insane fast-paced world, where people literally check email before they get out of bed and before they go to sleep, communicating more is not actually helping. It’s making things worse. So I have to ask – is communication really the problem?

I don’t think it is.

I believe that the real problem is a lack of information flow.Water moving What I mean by information flow is that the knowledge that we collect should be designed to move. Up, down, and across. With all of it available when I have to use it. Not only when someone is actively willing or available to give it to me, but passively – waiting for me to both access it and to add to it.

Great information flow means that the information does not wait for someone else to initiate the flow of information to me. I shouldn’t have to worry if I got that email, joined that teleconference, or was invited to the meeting (that kind of stuff only makes me join the email chains/telecons/meetings out of fear that SOME HOW I will be missing critical information – what a waste of time). Great information flow is never about waiting for the information to be sent to me period. I can – and should – always be able to go to it on-demand.

Too much paperworkImagine if the data we needed most was available to us like Wikipedia, Yammer, and SharePoint combined. The technology to do that exists today. What would that do to work flows and processes? How much copying from one data source to paste it in another data source (sales reports and forecasts, anyone?) would be eliminated? The experts in information flow that I talk to tell me it would reduce as much as 75% of administrative time by simply eliminating the hunt/copy/paste activity we all do waaaaaaay too much of. Can you imagine that? I know I can. And I get giddy just thinking about it.

And that, my friend, is a future I would encourage us all to push forward with. Look for ways to start small. Start by separating what is genuinely sensitive to other eyes from everything else. Compare your definitions of sensitivity with your team mates. Make the “everything else” stuff accessible on common drives. If you can, stop answering requests for information to be emailed, etc., and tell people to go to where the information is sitting for them – to be accessed any time. Tell people not to take the information out of the shared space, but to simply work with it there then leave it for others. Fight against hoarding information. And above all else, stop communicating this information. You are only making the chaos worse.

I mua. Onward and upward.

2 Tips for Boosting Your Sales Dramatically

Business pawnIf you want to boost your sales dramatically, there is no single tactic to help you. Not buying a CRM. Not investing in online advertising. Not starting a new sales process. You can only boost sales dramatically by developing a genuine system, by integrating all of your tactics into a dynamic whole.

And that is so much easier said than done.

So let me offer a couple tips that will make it easier to do.

FIRST, you must make sure that your tactics, whatever they may be, are tied directly to your sales strategy. Don’t have one? Tackle this before you spend any money on tactics. Seriously. And please don’t tell me that your strategy is a bunch of outcomes. Growing by 10% percent is not a strategy. It’s a dream result. And you cannot “do” a result.

If you have a sales strategy, you are then able to prioritize which tactics will move you closer to your definition of success. You can choose what to do – and what not to do – wisely.

SECOND, put your tactics into four categories. The categories are:

  • Skills (the behaviors that you bring to sales conversations)
  • Training (the process and product knowledge that you bring to sales conversations)
  • Tools (the resources that you bring to sales conversations)
  • Insights (the special information that you bring to sales conversations)

The obvious conclusion here is that if you need to boost your sales, make sure you are leveraging from all four categories. But the extra comment I would add is that you work to integrate all four categories. Integrate them into a dynamic whole. Make sure your tools increase your skills, your training enhances your insights, and so on. This is one of the biggest “fails” that I see consistently.

Just yesterday, I had an old colleague tell me about his last national sales conference a few weeks ago. It was for a very large company and the meeting was in Las Vegas. And it sounded like two days of pure torture. It was the classic revolving session format – go to this room to learn about program X, go to this room to learn about product line Y. And the amount of time spent effectively teaching people how to integrate this knowledge dump with their other sales tactics? Almost zero.

Keep moving, folks. There’s nothing interesting to see here.

My guess is that they are going to have a decent year because they lowered their expectations to the point that “hitting plan” will now be achievable. But certainly not anything dramatic.

As they say in South Africa… shame.

 I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai