Take Your Sales Team from Good to Great

I recently reread Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t and found that many of his ideas can help you improve performance of your sales team.

Collins’ book answers the question: How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness? Using tough standards, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of “comparison” companies that failed to make the leap from good to great.

Over five years and 15,000 hours of research, Collins and his team deduced the key determinants of greatness – why some companies make the leap and others don’t. Here are a few of their findings and what, I think, Collins’ findings mean to you and the development of your team.

Good is the enemy of great

Some sales teams will never be great because their sales managers settle for being good. It’s easier than being great.

First Who… then What

Collins expected to find that Good to Great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. What their research discovered, however, was that the best leaders first got the right people on the team, de-hired the wrong people, and got everyone in their optimal position… and then decided what the vision and strategy was. The saying, “People are your most important asset” is incorrect. It should be changed to, “The right people are your most important asset.” Then, put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.

Application questions: Is there anybody on your team who shouldn’t be? Do you have any team members in a less-than-optimal position, a person whose skills are not being fully utilized? What, and when will you rectify these situations?

Confront the brutal facts, but never lose faith

One of the most important findings from Collins’ research is that breakthrough results come about by a series of good decisions, diligently executed and accumulated one on top of the other. You don’t need to be perfect, but to be great you do need to make many more good decisions than bad ones. And good decision-making requires accurate information, which can be difficult to obtain. Collins writes:

Indeed, for those of you with a strong, charismatic personality, it is worthwhile to consider the idea that charisma can be as much a liability as an asset. Your strength of personality can sow the seeds of problems, when people filter the brutal facts from you.

Winston Churchill understood the liabilities of his strong personality. He was concerned that he wouldn’t get accurate information from his subordinates, so, during the darkest days of World War II, he founded the “Statistical Office”, a separate department outside the command structure that fed him the most accurate, indeed brutal, facts of the war. Churchill also possessed the second requirement of greatness — an unwavering faith that Britain would survive and thrive, even when things looked so bleak.

Application questions: What’s one great dream you would dare to dream (for your team) if you knew you could not fail?

Your “Stop doing” list is more important than your “To do” list.

Many sales managers lead busy lives, accomplishing task after task after task. Interestingly, the leaders studied in “Good to Great” companies made as much use of “stop doing” lists as “to do” lists. They continually asked themselves:

What can we do better than anyone else? What type of opportunities are we passionate about? And, what segment of customers allows us to make the most profit?

Good to Great leaders instilled the culture of discipline – by teaching their team where to focus, and what to ignore.

Application questions: What opportunities, or customer segments, can your team make a compelling case of being the best choice? Which of these opportunities are most profitable, and why? Finally, what can you become passionate about?

Is your team brilliant on the basics? If not, you may be losing sales you should be winning. At TopLine Leadership, we help salespeople re-focus on the fundamentals of effective salesmanship, and sales managers to master the basics of management / leadership. We can help you and your sales team with these concepts. Contact us today.

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.