Are You Building A Pandemic-Proof Sales Organization?
Harvard Business Review just published my latest article, 4 Ways to Reconfigure Your Sales Strategy During the Pandemic. It’s become vividly clear that if you want to sustain growth, your business has to reconsider how your sales organization executes your strategy. In the article, I highlight four important considerations for senior leaders who are responsible for the future value of the organization.
1. Put sales at the center of your strategy.
2. Leverage sales to discover and meet new customer needs.
3. Improve the sales experience.
4. Don’t forget to leverage the physical environment while social distancing.
You can read more about each of these with examples here.
Leadership, Debate, and Communicating Like An Executive:
With one more Presidential Debate to endure, I’m compelled to comment on what we’ve seen from the leading candidates. My view here is not a political one, though.
In addition to the leadership lens I observe these debates through, I attended college on a forensics scholarship, which was for debate and public speaking. I competed at the national championships and won two bronze awards for different categories of public speaking. What else would I do while pursuing a degree in rhetoric?
The sad truth of the matter is that none of the four candidates for president or vice president would have made it out of the first round in intercollegiate competition. Each of them failed miserably in applying even the most basic principles of debate and public speaking. There were ample grounds for any of them to have been disqualified before the first round was over. Here are five debate principles you can apply to help you become a far more effective leader.
- Topicality. The ability to stay on point is critical if you want to be heard. We’ve all talked with people who take multiple tangents in even short conversations. I had a client last year who described someone on her team as a “bumblebee” while pointing to the rapid and varied flight pattern of a bee in the air as we discussed this person’s lack of effectiveness in staying on point. While the politicians seemed to make an art form of avoiding the topic, you can’t afford to do this as a leader if you want to be taken seriously. Sustaining focus on an issue while being able to explore its many facets is a critical skill.
- Flow and time. “Take your time making your point; I intend to live forever.” That’s my favorite Alec Baldwin line from 30 Rock, as Tina Fey is explaining something to him in great detail. Debates, meetings, videoconferences, and phone calls all have time limits. It’s up to you as a leader to use that time well, and a big part of that is structuring your message carefully and being both clear and succinct. None of the candidates exhibited even a shred of competence in their ability to convey a clear thought within the allotted time. We all have limited attention, and clarity and succinctness are vital skills for a leader.
- Evidence. Claims and ideas require supporting arguments. Bold statements make for entertaining headlines, but as a leader you must have strong rationales. This has nothing to do with an insistence on being right. Instead, you want to convey the logic of your position, the way you’ve thought through an issue, and the data you believe reinforces your ideas. In the debates, evidence seems to be an afterthought instead of taking center stage.
- Speaker points. In competition debate, it’s recognized that the medium or the delivery is a critical part of the message. If it weren’t, we would just read the transcript. Part of advancing to the next round is dependent on how well your message is received by the audience, including the judges. How ideas are delivered, and the way concepts are articulated, has a significant persuasive impact on your effectiveness as a leader. The ability to share ideas, opinions, and opposing thoughts with courtesy, impact, and even wit is an important part of being compelling.
- Ad hominem. The term, which you’ve probably heard, is Latin for “to the person,” and it refers to personal attacks versus attacks on arguments. This is grounds for disqualification. I don’t think you need anything more from me on this one.
“Don’t take it personally.” That’s something we hear and sometimes even say in business, but it’s an idea that bears some scrutiny. With the amount of time we spend in the workplace and the amount of personal investment we have in a company’s outcomes, why wouldn’t we take what happens at work personally?
In his Harvard Business Review article “‘Don’t Take It Personally’ Is Terrible Work Advice,” Duncan Coombe calls this standard platitude an absurd one, writing, “I should accept the idea that the bulk of my life from twentysomething to sixtysomething is somehow not personal?” Instead, he points out the benefits of making “our work, leadership, and followership” personal (while still maintaining boundaries), and he notes that taking work personally keeps us both engaged and ethical. Sometimes it’s good to break down and rethink conventional wisdom.