Each Fall I hit the road for the annual Convention season, sharing ideas with leaders, managers and salespeople around the world. It’s not just a chance to present, but a chance to listen, and discover what people are focusing on in their lives. From the many stages I’ve seen, there’s no lack of perennials: Write a business plan and follow up on leads and Tweet and such. But every few years, I detect subtle shifts in people’s concerns. Midway point through this season, here are my observations:
More is Over.
Most of the sales organizations I’ve worked with this year have made a definite shift away from the “more” focus towards a “better” focus. Whether it’s a response to limited resources or an increase in effective data analysis, salespeople and managers have tuned out messages which exhort them to get “more” leads, recruits, and even transactions. Over and over I am watching people say (correctly) they don’t need to be busier or inundated; They need to be doing work that produces better outcomes, solid margins, less stress (personally and organizationally) and better customer loyalty. Better is definitely back.
After a decade of insanely paced technological integration, organizations are rediscovering an equal need for silence. What was once called “disruption” is now becoming “interruption” of the execution of the simplest business models. One of the best examples of this happened on a real estate trade show floor. A hearty belly laugh caught my attention, from a woman listening to a “drone” vendor tell her it was the latest way to generate “exposure” for her listings. Hardly able to contain her glee, the agent said, “Please sell this to as many of my competitors as possible! By time they get it off the ground, I will have sold another house by phone.” I heard similar stories from managers who have stopped using email as their daily planner (one company stopped using internal emails entirely), salespeople who have turned off “push” notifications and even a customer panel who said they were just as happy with a phone call as a text, as long as the message was relevant.
Individuals and organizations are exploring what it means to be of value, deliver value and compete on values like never before. I am watching leaders staking out serious positions on culture, style and satisfaction with regard to the value they produce for salespeople and customers. I have been admiring salespeople carefully listening to customers whose modern values evolved beyond the cliches of the last half century. And I’m thrilled to see companies double down on their own value propositions rather than uncritically adopt the next-proclaimed “Uber-ification” of their industry. Perhaps it’s as simple as the salesman who wrote me recently to say that, having accepted my challenge to spend fifteen minutes each morning writing about something he values, he discovered that he’s of far more value to others than the collection of systems and tools he uses at work. As he integrates that into his client conversations, he is closing the right business at the right value for his clients – and himself.
The Big Picture
Taken as a whole, it is clear a much deeper shift than the “latest and greatest” is occurring in many sectors of the global economy. From my July trip to Shanghai, where I saw the power of productive forces unleashed regardless of uncertainty, to a creative writing class in Miami, where a two-minute exercise brought an audience of four hundred to tears, I’m excited to say the “animal spirits” are back. So turn off the news, and tune out the noise. Grab a pencil and flip through your little black book.