This is the season of sales kickoff meetings, when more than ever actions speak louder than words.
By the time you are leading a company, you should be fully cognizant that nothing happens until somebody somewhere sells something. And yet, in my experience there is a love/hate relationship with sales in many companies. On the surface, if you ask the senior leaders you hear, “we love sales, we love salespeople—sales rocks.” After all, everybody knows sales are the revenue engine. But peel back a few layers of the onion, and you get the sense that “sales is a pain in the a*%, they’re too demanding, we pay them too much.” The list goes on and on. A senior leadership team’s behavior toward the sales function speaks volumes about how they really feel about relationships!
I delivered 64 global speaking engagements in 2015. As is my usual practice, I seldom just show up for my hour on the agenda—I spend the entire day attending the meeting, side by side with the people most responsible for the success of that organization. My observation? It’s great that the CEO gets up and talks about the strategy, and the CMO talks about branding and social impressions. It’s great that manufacturing or operations talks about all the ways they are streamlining the production and delivery engines. And yet, when the thought leader on strategic relationships they have selected takes the podium, where are the leaders?!?! What signal did all those business leaders send? And more importantly, what did they miss?
Think about it: If the agenda says, “Relationship Economics – the art & science of relationships” and “how to be more intentional about the relationships we choose to invest in,” doesn’t the leaders’ absence send a strong signal to the rest of the room that “this topic is not really that important”? I promise this isn’t about my ego. When an entire room of 500 or 1000 people get a dozen or more ideas about how to improve their relationships, and you weren’t there, what key ideas or emotional connections with your own team did you miss? What was it that engaged them, moved them to praise that which they just heard, that which they just felt?
Conversely, this past year, I also spoke at a number of events where the front row was filled with senior executives and even board members (my favorite are the truly forward thinking organizations who invite customers or channel partners / distributors to their sales meetings!!) It has the exact opposite effect: It highlights how relationship-centric the company culture really is. As a speaker, when I see executives integrating my comments into their own presentations, when I hear leaders starting to apply my insights even before that sales meeting has ended, I observe a very different energy, a greater commitment to strategic relationships, within as well as external to the organization. I witness the difference between a transactional event and a transformational one. Guess what? So do your people in the room!
Events are a means to an end. What will you choose to do with that content? When I am engaged to deliver a keynote, the opportunity is barely sufficient to plant a seed. It is on you, senior leaders, to nurture it, feed it, fuel it, encourage that acorn to become the oak tree it has the potential to become. You have an opportunity to take an interesting idea, a new perspective, and permeate the idea throughout the rest of your organization, where it might be truly transformational. But if you weren’t in the room to experience the planting of that seed, you will never know what role that content could play in your success.
By the way, that presenter who diligently sat in the back of the room throughout your sales kickoff event? Unless they started professionally speaking 5 min ago, he or she has probably worked with other interesting, forward-thinking companies and leaders. And throughout the day, while your people were quietly sitting back there, the thought- or practice leader you engaged had an ideal intelligence-gathering opportunity regarding your human capital. He heard your executives present! She sat among your rank and file and overheard their conversations, even had conversations with them over a meal or two! Call me crazy, but maybe he or she has some unique, unfiltered, unbiased, agenda-free insights, that might be useful to you? You’ve paid to have this individual onsite, why not make time to engage them?
Senior leaders, if you don’t show—make time to attend the presentations alongside your team, make time to debrief with the speaker you’ve hired—how much will you never know, that might have utterly transformed your results in the year ahead?
- Leaders must recognize that their behavior speaks volumes. If you want your organization to become relationship-centric, show up for the speech by the thought leader on relationships.
- If you aren’t present for events that move the hearts and minds of your sales team, you won’t know what you missed—or how to leverage it for transformational results.
- I can only plant a seed during my keynote; an organization’s leaders must choose how to make the most of that content.
David Nour has spent the past two decades being a student of business relationships. In the process, he has developed Relationship Economics® – the art and science of becoming more intentional and strategic in the relationships one chooses to invest in. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, The Nour Group, Inc. has worked with clients such as Hilton, ThyssenKrupp, Disney, KPMG and over 100 other marquee organizations in driving profitable growth through unique return on their strategic relationships. Nour has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possess, large and small, public and private. He is the author of nine books translated in eight languages, including the best selling Relationship Economics – Revised (Wiley), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger), Return on Impact (ASAE), and the forthcoming CO-CREATE. (St. Martin’s Press), an essential guide showing C-level leaders how to optimize relationships, create market gravity, and greatly increase revenue. Learn more at www.NourGroup.com.