Leadership for Executives

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Leadership obviously has multiple components, but our years of RoundTable experience suggests there is one cornerstone component that stands alone.

Yes, toxic leader profiles and/or ridiculous business plans can neutralize any business opportunity, but the one missing component we observe with increasing frequency today is the lack of clear accountability. At CRO Executive RoundTable, we define a leader as someone people will follow.  When we meet with member company employees to apply this definition, two discussion topics typically evolve:  accountability and the 3 T’s profile.  These two are directly connected to overall success.

Accountability

Many executives have been trained, coached etc. to believe consensus is leadership.  The goal is to get ‘buy in’ by all participants but the real world outcome is better described as management by lack of ownership.   Margaret Thatcher said it best:

“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?”

Accountability does put focus and varying levels of stress into the organization but success is not achieved by complacency or consensus.   If complacency is in control, the culture will deny, deflect and/or destroy all efforts for change.  Everyone is operating in their comfort zone while the business is consuming resources just circling the wagons…which may end up being the precursor to circling the drain.

3 T’s Profile

The profile that makes Accountability a leadership skill are combinations of Trust, Transparency and Timeliness.  These are almost boundless research topics but the employee engagement discussions are less complicated.

Trust - is earned; employees want to know senior leadership is more than committed than they are to delivering the results.  Execs wanting to be “consensus scorekeepers” are often viewed as just being along for the ride and producing zero contribution.

Transparency – employees know some topics are not fully disclosable but they want to know – or be able to ask – about all other matters that impact growth and success.  Executives that face questions and issues head on are aligned with where employees want to be.

Timeliness – we live in a 24/7 world today.  Employees don’t want to learn more about their company from the web than from leadership.  Employees are the top-tier stakeholders in any business so putting other individuals or groups first is a breach with direct performance engagement consequences.

Conclusion These are not hard tasks to understand or deliver except when effective leadership is not the top priority.  That may appear to be an oxymoron but it is clear to employees.

Business Is Just a Hockey Game

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Sales Perspective from the State of Hockey

Being headquartered in the State of Hockey (Thank You MN Wild) is either a plus or a minus depending on your interest in ice hockey.  Having invested decades of time watching youth association to professional level games, it is clear there are similarities that go beyond the scoring (above or below budget performance). 

Here are 3 items to consider getting ready for 2019:

  1. Talent – Teams with more talent win more games.  The talent part is a team issue – a composite of skating, stick handling, shooting and goaltending skills determine the outcomes.  What critical skills are needed/missing on your team to outperform the market?

  2. Speed vs. skill - Teams need both.  Speed players can move the puck fast but stick handlers can be just as productive.  Companies are always attracted to the big bio candidates but good stick handlers get things done too.  Stick handlers may have less speed but they have the peripheral vision (anticipate disruption) needed to keep moving forward.  Sometimes it is easier to find good stick handlers with strong team profiles.

  3. Adversity - What happens if you fall behind?  Normally that means you were not prepared (skill or disruption issues) or you underestimated the competition…or both.  Not a lot of options once the game (year) starts.  Typically, your top scoring lines get more shifts.  Bottom line – you leverage your talent and work your way out of the hole.  And yes, some coaches (CRO’s) get fired if the recovery effort doesn’t deliver in time.

Best of (Revenue) Luck to all CRO’s in 2019…and keep your stick on the ice!

Retro Selling on the Horizon?

Could there be a retrograde coming to sales?

One of the topics we took up this year at the RoundTables was the role of the salesperson in the modern sales world. Social media, artificial intelligence, chat bots, etc., are all having an impact on the traditional sales process. Automation is changing the entire process by limiting (removing?) the salesperson from the prospecting activities. The change in the sales process appears to be moving the requirements for successful selling in the very near future.

Prospecting
No bigger change has occurred anywhere else in the selling process than prospecting. The RoundTable members are experiencing the migration of these activities from sales to marketing. The ability to track marketing initiatives, adjust DV messaging and do a first-pass qualify electronically has changed the process. The addition of bots to the marketing initiatives creates an interaction, albeit somewhat wooden, to mildly qualify the prospect.

However, the ability to prospect using traditional methods may come back into focus. The consensus was that salespeople with a strong network will become even more valuable to prospecting in the near future. As prospects become inundated with the new prospecting automation tools, salespeople with strong networks will be able to reach out on a personal level to cut through the noise. That ability may lead us back to in-person prospecting via meetings, lunch and learns, sporting events, etc.

Qualifying
There is no greater skill involved in sales success than qualifying. The strongest salespeople know when to ask, what to ask, how to ask the right questions to bring clarity to a potential deal. There are many artificial intelligence (AI) tools entering the marketplace with the goal of augmenting (or replacing?) salespeople. How smart can these tools become in regards to reading people? Will they be able to pick up nonverbal cues? Sarcasm? Stalls?

You see the issue here - sales is a people-oriented function. Humans communication is only 7% verbal, the other 93% is nonverbal including body language, tone, breathing, eye movement, pacing, etc. The rush towards AI qualifying seems inevitable, but a need for salespeople to talk to prospects will persist.

Closing
Qualified deals close themselves…an axiom we subscribe to in strong selling. However, it still requires a closing event to occur. The actual acceptance of the solution at the agreed upon investment. There is a subtlety to closing that seems difficult to imagine in a machine. The minor agreements, the positive signs, the professional approach to asking for the business, all seem deeply seated in the human approach.

Certainly AI will be able to take orders, but closing a deal will require a far more nuanced approach. The empathetic ability of an AI machine, if it possesses any, will be stretched at this phase of a selling process. This step still seems like a retro approach, if we can call it that, will work best. A meeting over a meal, a stall-clearing phone discussion, a face-to-face closing meeting all seem like a standard that will prevent this stage from ever moving away from a salesperson’s involvement.

Where does it end?
AI is surrounded by ambiguity at this point as it continues to develop to new levels. However, no matter how advanced AI becomes, the basis of selling will remain an interaction between two people making a financial decision. The feeling of our RoundTable groups was that the upcoming year will prove to be revealing of the future of AI in the sales world.

Hiring Horror Stories for Halloween

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Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a hiring horror story.

TheLadders.com took the time to assemble 13 hiring horror stories on this All Hallow’s Eve. The article is most entertaining, especially since none of these events happened to you!

This particular story from the article is unreal:

10. Mid-interview I thought I had the perfect candidate for the position. As I was about to extend the job offer, he began to sweat profusely. I offered water, turned the air conditioner to a lower temperature as he began to mumble. I thought “Oh No, I’ve got a medical emergency on my hands.” He excused himself to go to the restroom but didn’t return after 15 minutes. I asked a male staff member to enter the men’s restroom to check on him. The door was somehow locked and barricaded. The applicant wouldn’t answer our calls to open the door but began rambling aloud. I called the fire department and after another 20 minutes the applicant emerged totally intoxicated (empty bottle in hand) and possibly under the influence of “something” else. The next day his wife called me requesting to know when his start date would be… no job offer was extended to this candidate!

Things could always be worse.

How will your sales team address VUCA?

One of our long standing CRO Executive RoundTable companies has developed a compelling video about the new world of sales addressing VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity).  OppSource is working with sales teams on a global basis to implement the next level of skills and tools needed to survive and grow.  How well will your sales team perform going up against this level of competition?

Avoiding The Self-Inflicted Failure Trap

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After decades of working with highly successful companies, I have observed one failure trap that is still alive and well in today’s business climate.

It is avoidable but the more success a company achieves, the more likely it is to experience a “pivot” (great word for surviving a FUBAR catastrophe!) in order to continue. 

Companies typically become successful by doing something new that the market wants, accepts, and is willing to embrace.  Some examples could be electric cars, artificial intelligence for repetitive type functions, real time 24x7 communication etc.

Success ultimately stimulates internal growth and at some point, the organization has very precise roles with crafted job descriptions, KPI’s, compensation ranges etc.  The creativity that launched the company evolves into “structure” with clearly defined roles and expectations.  People are measured and rewarded by how well they execute their assigned micro tasks.

The result is creativity doesn’t flourish in structure.  Real creativity is unscheduled, amorphous, unpredictable and essential for addressing today’s business disruption.  Leadership teams own the disruption challenge - How much of your day is spent nurturing the creativity core needed in your business to succeed?

So What?

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We often write about Differentiating Value (i.e. DV) as it is fundamental to any strong selling system. You will hear it called value proposition, unique selling proposition, differentiation, and son on. We have an entire process to help companies define and refine their DV which will affect the entire selling process.

But let’s talk about a quick, simple approach you can use on your own to start refining your DV. Take a look at your present DV and ask yourself, “So what?”

The approach sounds indignant, but it works. The goal is to refine, or distill, your DV down to its essence because that is the point where it has the most power.

Existing DV: “We provide excellent service to our customers.”

So what?

“Our customers know we will take care of them if they have a problem.”

So what?

“If our equipment breaks down in the middle of a production run, we will have techs on-site fast.”

So what?

“We provide the fasted response times in our industry which allows our customers to know they will hit their production goals.”

Once you distill the topic down to the point where asking “So what?” sounds flippant, you have reached the essence of that particular DV. Now, you might find that it is not a compelling DV which may lead you to constructing a new DV all together.

Try this exercise as you work on your next DV messaging. As frustrating as it may get, in the end you will have a tight, impactful message. If you need assistance, we can help.

Our New Sponsor-SkillFitness

We are excited to announce that SkillFitness has become a corporate sponsor for CRO Executive RoundTable.  SkillFitness is a mobile, video-based skills mastery platform that transforms how teams perform at a higher level to deliver business outcomes.  The SkillFitness app will also be the host platform for our new CRO Coach program.  All RoundTable members are automatically enrolled in CRO Coach which offers continuous access to all RoundTable revenue topics, tutorials, and videos.

The End-of-Year Race

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The annual end-of-year race is about to commence right after Labor Day.  The finish line resides somewhere within the holiday season.  This period represents the closing of the revenue year and will determine success (or something short of that).

The importance of this time period is clear.  Do you have all of your tools aligned to make the final revenue push?  If we may be so bold, here are a trio of recommendations for all CROs heading into the race.

Bankable Forecast - this is the most important aspect of the race. Can you take your forecast to the bank?  If not, you need your team to perform a real-world purge of the forecast for the remainder of the year.  You must know what is closing in the time period to make the right adjustments to your game plan.

Bench Strength - your team may be facing some unexpected turnover.  The economy is roaring and salespeople are confident in finding new opportunities.  When is a popular time to make a change?  Many salespeople will make a move right before the holiday season to leverage time off with family and friends.  Others will wait until early in Q1 to cash in their variable compensation (commissions, bonuses, etc.).  Either way, you need to have a plan for building a strong bench in case turnover occurs in your team.

Results-Driven Incentive Plans - next year's compensation plans will be on your list during the race.  You have to recognize effort and reward results with a plan that drives the behaviors you need in each role.  The mix of salary, commission, bonuses, spiffs and more needs to be designed for a Jan. 1 launch date.

Clearly, there are other topics for all CROs this time of year, but these 3 tasks will cover a good portion of your 2019 foundation.  If you need help on any of these topics, we are here to help.

20 Traits of a Leader

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We worked through this topic at our recent RoundTable meetings and I thought the off-the-cuff list we compiled was fairly thorough.

Here is the list we developed:

1. Hiring skills

2. Vision

3. Integrity

4. Trustworthy

5. Confidence

6. OK with tough questions

7. Has your interests in mind

8. Cares about people

9. Delegation

10. Great Thinker

11. Good Communicator

12. Values Contribution

13. Good Team

14. Influential

15. Lead by Example

16. Strategic

17. Stable

18. Positive

19. Practices the Platinum Rule (treat others how they want to be treated)

20. Values you