Horizon Not Headlines

Here’s two recent thoughts that blend to show sales team cultural direction.

The first is a final take-away from 2010’s political party conference season across England. It’s Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s best moment, as defined by his supporter and Newsnight analyst Olly Grender.

“We’re keeping our eyes on the horizon, not on the headlines.”

He preached this in reaction to what he sees as the runaway spin of the New Labour years, and it’s evident from his speech that he is unimpressed by it.

Beyond the political, this though did catch my ear as it matches a regular problem throughout all levels of selling. It is all so easy to lose sight of the big picture. Salespeople can get so hung up on their next chat with their boss, that they at least exaggerate, at worst embellish, the result of a call just completed or current deal status.

I must point out that my experience is that in many cases, this behaviour is often unintentional. They are under serious stress. Highly eager to please. There’s no wish to be the bearer of anything less than superb news. It is rarely downright fibbing.

Instead, the slightest hint of a positive is accentuated, stretched to bear little relation to the reality, altering the required perspective so much that it is rendered blind.

The persistence of such imbalanced vision fatally wounds performance.

By coincidence, I caught Evan Davis’s The Bottom Line at a similar time (BBC iPlayer & itunes free podcasts).

One of three panellists, Jasmine Montgomery, co-founder of marketing consultancy Seven Brands, discussed a reason why she branched out on her own.

When her previous employer lost a deal, the CEO would insist on what sounds like a medieval inquisition into what went wrong. She portrays the cultural impact as devastating. In her own firm now, when they lose a deal, they “quickly move on”. She didn’t go into detail how they learn from mistakes, but her view was certainly that things were better this way.

A sales function that allows people to freely discuss bid issues of concern, in the context of overall aims, and embraces processes towards continual improvement will undoubtedly make any success on the horizon move nearer than if they’d chased management of every individual dodgy headline.

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