This was the topic for the Sales Leader Forum last week, and I was privileged to join Tony Hughes (Sales Leadership Expert), Dan Porter (National GM Enterprise Sales, Fujifilm) and Jo Gaines (AVP, Salesforce Digital360) on the expert panel.
The forum was a ‘Q and A’ format, and there were several poignant questions and answers, four of which I am sharing with you here. I hope they will also make you reflect on, and question, your practices and team culture, and then take action to gain the edge.
Why Should You Create an Elite High Performing Team?
A high-performing team outperforms the sum of individual performances by 10-100 times (Merrill Lynch). In the competitive world we live in, it is worth the effort to gain that edge. But it won’t happen by itself. It requires the right culture to be strongly modelled by the leaders, the right metrics, effective collaboration and connection.
How do you Create a Culture to be Proud of?
When you create such a culture, your team will enjoy being at work, which means much more than a ‘nice to have’ environment.
It means they will work faster and they will deliver work of the highest quality. They will collaborate with enthusiasm and empathy; there will be a buzz whenever they are together, and that collective buzz makes it much harder for your top talent to think about leaving. Your reputation as a business will be enhanced, which means you will also attract top talent.
Culture is ‘the way we do things around here. It’s what we do and what we don’t do. It’s the way people behave when no one else is looking. That set of behaviours and rituals must start from the top.
Your business cannot have a culture to be proud of without the leaders modelling these behaviours and rituals 95% of the time. That’s a big ask, because although demonstrating the behaviours is easy most of the time, getting to 95% means modelling them when it is difficult to do so, when the easy option would be to do something ‘similar’ or ‘quicker’.
We call difficult times where the pressure and stakes are high ‘5% moments’, and for leaders in particular, these are the defining moments of your leadership. How good you are as a leader does not depend on how you behave ‘usually’. It depends on how you behave in the 5% moments. How you behave in these high stake moments is what sets the cultural benchmark for your entire business.
If you want a brilliant culture, you must firstly agree and clearly define the behaviours and rituals your team will be guided by. Then secondly, and as significantly, you as a leader, you must demonstrate these 95% of the time. As Jo Gaines said at the forum, a fish rots from the head.
What Should You Measure to Drive High Performance?
There was good debate around this. Should you have team targets or individual targets? I believe that you need both if you are to have your Sales Team operating as a genuine team and not merely as a group of high achieving individuals.
There was good agreement that lead indicators will have a much greater impact on lifting performance than lag indicators. What lead indicators to measure is vital to establish, and Dan Porter had some thorough internal research on this.
The behaviours exhibited by their consistently high performers were not those you might expect. They highlighted the value of research to find out what actions make a difference to results.
It is critical to find out what matters for high performance, both what actions and what mindset. Then you must find a way to measure these so that you can lift the performance of both individuals and teams.
Encourage Connection and Collaboration
You cannot have an elite sales team (or any other team) without having a strong connection between the team members themselves and between the team members and their leader/manager.
Of course, this connection and collaboration have proven to be even more challenging during COVID. However, COVID has also provided the opportunity to be more intentional about what truly fosters these two critical aspects in a high-performance team.
The expert panel each provided some specific actions that have promoted collaboration and connection. Jo’s Sales Team at Salesforce started a ‘tips and tricks’ session, where team members shared their tips for connecting with and serving clients remotely. This was not only a source of great advice for client interactions, it also showed the team adding value and appreciating each other.
Scheduling ‘coffee’ in addition to meetings meant that the human connection and team pulse was maintained. This has proven critical. Online meetings are very efficient and effective, but they don’t enable that ‘purely human’ connection to be fostered in the same way we had pre-COVID. We need to replicate the chat and banter we enjoyed as we walked to or from a meeting or met at the watercooler or photocopier.
Most businesses are also ensuring that ‘everyone is in’ the office 1-2 days per week and that the office space has been redesigned to have collaboration and connection spaces, as well as individual workspaces.
A high-performing team outperforms the sum of individual performances by 10-100 times. In the competitive world we live in, it is worth the effort to gain that edge. But it won’t happen by itself, it requires the right culture to be strongly modelled by the leaders, the right metrics, effective collaboration and connection.
How do you and your team rank in each of these? Will you choose to accept the level you currently deliver at? Or will you take action to lift the performance of your team to grow your business?