The month end was only a couple of days away.
I was curious and surprised as I waited in the Mumbai office of the National Sales Manager of one of India’s largest listed consumer goods companies.
He walks in, unhurriedly, exchanges pleasantries, shares his visiting card and excitedly remarks, “Isn’t the Sunset beautiful?”
Looking out of the window, watching the sun dissolve into the Arabian sea, I respond, “Yes”.
The industry veteran’s unusual acceptance of an appointment towards the end of the month and his ‘insulated’ behavior from the pressure of a monthly target, made me a little uncomfortable.
My meeting agenda was to know about his challenges in getting his sales team to address issues on discounts, DSO, erratic stock, inaccurate forecasting and all the things that plague distribution sales. But, I bypassed the agenda.
I could not help but ask him, “How are we doing in terms of monthly numbers?”.
He smiled and quipped, “My team would know”.
What followed was a riveting 45-minute success story that reinforced my insight into the success of top-performing sales leaders. During the course of my career, in helping organizations boost sales performance, I have had the good fortune of meeting a few sales leaders who have demonstrated similar outcomes.
Though the number of factors are many ranging from leadership, team building to systems, there is one that I have found common to all the top sales leaders. It is something that they do consistently in all their exchanges with their sales teams.
FOCUS on a Single Number
Steve W. Martin, a sales linguistic expert, who also teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, wrote about this in Harvard Business Review – 7 attributes of the most effective sales leaders.
Right on top (of the 7 attributes) was “Target Fixation”. (It is a prioritized list of 7)
It corroborates to an extent my observations. The top Sales Leaders are able to keep their teams focused on achieving one goal, irrespective of everything else. All meetings and communications are clearly directed on that ONE number that really matters. This ensures that all distractions and ambiguities are kept at bay, ensuring that the team moves forward with a sense of urgency and purpose.
Focus is key, but that alone isn’t enough. Focus followed by systematic, rigorous reviews, helps build and execute a clear line of sight from the goal to actions on the field.
Do you know of leaders who are able to sharply focus on ONE metric? Let me know, I would love to meet them!