I enjoy studying the success or failure of military campaigns. Over the years, wars have been fought in many different ways. One example was when opposing forces lined up and fired their weapons at each other at point blank range. Obviously in this type of warfare, the army with the most soldiers had a decided advantage.
By the time World War I and World War II came along, armies did battle much differently. In both of those wars soldiers sought protection from the enemy soldiers by seeking cover in trenches and foxholes as they fired their weapons.
In all wars, reconnaissance has always played an important role. Every army in history has spent a lot of energy trying to somehow sneak behind enemy lines to see what the opposing army was planning.
But perhaps the most critical aspect of successful military campaigns had to do with the effectiveness of the military commanders' battle strategy and the discipline that exists among the troops whose job it was to execute the game plan that came down from the top.
I can't imagine an army of individualists who were running and shooting independently with no battle plan being very successful if they were up against a highly disciplined group of soldiers who were working like a well-oiled machine to execute a well-thought-out strategy.
Now, let's switch gears to waging a battle for your customers' and prospects' business. How organized is your sales effort? Does your company have a game plan? Do you sit down in strategy sessions and try to figure out your competitors' weaknesses how to best exploit them? Do you and the other salespeople deliver a consistent marketing message?
What I see as I work with companies throughout North America more times than is not a group of individual salespeople operating independently with no particular game plan.
While typically the salespeople do have the same objective—to earn the business at a satisfactory profit—each of the individual salespeople is left to his or her own devices in achieving goals and objectives.
There's no doubt about it, the companies that achieve the best results field a disciplined sales force that takes a well-rehearsed message to their customers and prospects.
The sales teams that seem to forever struggle are those that field an undisciplined poorly managed group of independent operators who resist leadership.
With that said, there are certainly highly experienced professionals out there who need very little guidance or direction. They are consistent performers who have figured out how to achieve both their personal goals and those of their respective companies. I always welcomed these salespeople on the sales teams I have had the privilege of leading.
Those salespeople who consistently fall short of their agreed-to sales and gross margin goals, however, desperately need strong leadership. They have not earned the right to operate independently.
While virtually all salespeople do diligently make sales calls, what they say and do on the sales calls they make differ substantially. This is where I have found discipline to break down the quickest.
Try this: Develop the discipline to practice making your sales presentation in front of a video camera (best) or a tape recorder (second best) and ask your manager to critique your presentation. This discipline will do the same thing for your sales presentation skills that it does for golfers who wish to improve their golf game.
First recording your sales presentation and secondly watching yourself is the only way you can see yourself as your customers and prospects see you.
Your raise becomes effective when you do.
Bill Lee is a business consultant, columnist, speaker, and seminar leader who works extensively throughout North America. He also is affiliated with Lee Resources, a Greenville, S.C.-based consulting, training and publishing organization.