Today's sales leaders have a constant battle - to they focus on today's outcomes or tomorrow's growth. This story about Julie, a bright, well-educated leader, illustrates the answer. Julie was brought into to turn around one of the divisions of a publicly-traded company. When Julie joined her new company, the direction she received from the CEO was clear – define a new way of delivering services to increase our revenue. Driven and confident, Julie knew she was up to the task.
Generating Sales Results Today
After gathering and analyzing customer feedback, Julie partnered with her CEO to define an entirely new approach to the delivery of their services. She quickly began to move to the execution phase of their plan. At a day-long planning meeting with her management team, Julie explained the new direction to her managers and led them through a series of discussions to define the activities their teams would need to execute in alignment with the new strategy.
After the initial planning meeting, Julie held weekly meetings to keep her management team on target with all the tasks they needed to complete. At each of these weekly meetings, managers were expected to report on the completion of their assigned tasks. Those that delivered in a timely fashion were praised and those that did not were quickly put on a performance improvement plan. Julie was regarded by senior management as a great executor, even though behind closed doors, many of her management team members complained about her controlling and heavy-handed approach.
Within just a year, Julie had completely re-vamped all of the structure of each of her departments to align with her new service strategy. The customer response had been extremely positive to the company’s new services and by the end of the year, Julie’s division had increased revenue by 67% over the previous year. She was widely praised by her CEO and was seen by many in the company as his heir apparent. Her star was clearly on the rise.
Generating Sales Results Tomorrow
But the tide began to turn during the second year of leading her division. The significant change that she had led her team through during her first year had yielded significant growth. However, after the initial increase caused by the significant change to the company’s services, Julie and her team had difficulty creating a long-term growth strategy. Just as they had before, the team was waiting for Julie to have another a big idea. Unfortunately, Julie’s creative juices were running dry and she was feeling spent from the tireless execution she drove the year prior.
Knowing that she needed to increase revenue, Julie decided to hire a new sales executive, from outside the company, as she had not developed a great deal of leadership talent underneath her. Facing pressure from her CEO, Julie put pressure on her new sales leader, Matt, to deliver results quickly. Matt came into the role with enthusiasm and a strong desire to learn and grow, he quickly found that he has difficulty adjusting Julie’s very directive and hands-on management style. The longer it took him to drive a significant increase in revenue, the more controlling Julie became.
Julie and Matt met constantly, reviewing all the available data to determine the right approach. One quarter they would see an uptick in a current customer segment so they would pursue like customers aggressively. But the next quarter, the data would indicate that new customers had the most potential for growth, so they would shift their strategy accordingly. Matt and his sales team would aggressively pursue each change in sales strategy, but by the end of the year, the team had clearly become frustrated with the constant shifts in direction and had lost faith in Julie’s leadership.
By the end of her second year leading her company, Julie had achieved only minor growth over the previous year and new revenue was sharply below projected numbers. Her team was highly dissatisfied, not only by their lack of success, but by the fact that Julie had rarely listened to their ideas. They felt like they had done what she had asked them to do and now they were paying for it. Julie herself was also frustrated and experiencing burnout. Just a little over two years after starting at the company and just one year after driving the most significant growth in her division’s history, Julie resigned under pressure from her CEO.
The story of Julie is all too common in today’s business environment.
As you read about her challenges, you may have recognized yourself in some of her decisions and choices. Perhaps her challenge is one you are currently facing or have faced in the recent past. Unfortunately, you are not alone as most leaders are dealing with the new, unexpected challenges that have arisen because of today’s fast-changing business climate and an unstable global economy.
When faced with this type of complexity, many leaders have the same kind of response as Julie. They feel the anxiety and the pressure to make the right change and make it now. But with all the information and all the potential paths they could take, they are unclear about the right one. They want to project an image of being in control so they resort to what they know. They try to follow the same approach that has led to their success in the past, and they commit to doing it even better than they did before. And when they do not see a significant change in results, they exert even more control. They put even more pressure on their teams and they start micro-managing people more and more.
The problem is clear. They are trying to manage their way to growth in sales results.
Read my previous blog post "Why You Can't Manage Your Way To Growth"