There aren’t many feelings as cool as when you get to see one of your own best practices kick in. I had the great good fortune this past Wednesday to watch one of mine take hold and accomplish its intended effect. (I just wish I had actually thought the practice up instead of simply bumbling into it about four years ago…)
The scene is a Sales Excellence Council (SEC) meeting for a chemical company. The attendees include the four top sales performers, the Supply Chain manger (critical to sales in this industry), the Director of Sales and the CEO. It’s the perfect mix of people to define, document and implement a formal sales process. This was the fifth monthly meeting; the meeting where we scheduled the rollout to rest of the sales team, about 45 people.
So far, things have gone quite well. As a group, we’re a good 60-90 days ahead of normal SEC progress. From day one, it has been me in the front of the room facilitating, presenting concepts, challenging assumptions and documenting everything. Also back on day 1 (…and here’s the best practice), I asked for opinions about who should present this (mandatory) process to rest of the sales force. Of course, they immediately said it must be them as the top performers and sales leaders. “OK,” I said. “Are you sure you don’t want me to do at least the ‘why this is critical to our future success’ part?” “No way!” they said.
Then for five months, they all sat in the comfortable chairs, while I occupied the “hot seat.” On Wednesday though, we locked in the roll-out schedule and assigned SEC members to present the kickoff session introduction, process overview, detailed reviews of each key sales stage, how it all is mapped into the chosen CRM, etc. That’s when the magic happened. All of a sudden, it sank in that each individual would soon be up in front of the room; preaching to a quasi-hostile crowd of peers, putting their personal reputation on the line, selling the value of the process they had created and fending off the inevitable objections and negative reactions.
For the next 75 minutes, the discussion was really intense. Why doesn’t the Develop Value Proposition stage end here instead of there? Why did we decide to nail down the customer decision process so early on? Tell me again how odds to close will be calculated… Round and round it went as I sat there, arms folded, saying nothing and smiling.
It is now their process. They own it. They’re proud of it. They are ready, willing and able to question anything about it, and either defend its wisdom or modify it to make it better. They’re committed to use it personally. They’re ready to roll it out.
So back to the initial point. A different client, 4+ years ago told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be the primary speaker at the rollout meeting. I warned him about the risks of relegating me, the brilliant out-of-town-expert into a behind-the-scenes role. It went great. I’m forever grateful to have been put in my place.
I’d rather be lucky than good.