“…It’s not about the effort, it’s about the outcomes.” – Maynard Webb
Recently I was visiting with the CEO of a local manufacturing enterprise. He was expressing his frustration over the lack of buy in from employees related to a recent sales initiative. The company wanted to fundamentally change how its salespeople went about sales calls. They were trying to focus more on SPIN selling and less on traditional sales techniques. They walked through how SPIN selling works, the theory and the practice. Then the sales force went out and did things exactly the same way they’d been doing them before. No wonder he’s frustrated.
Thinking of that conversation makes me think about sales, but not SPIN vs whatever other ideas you may have. I’m thinking about how we as leaders sell ideas within our organizations. Thinking about that makes me wonder why we think selling ideas to our employees should be any different than selling products to our customers.
If you ask a really successful salesperson their secret, one of the things that tends to come up is that customers don’t just want to know about features. They don’t just want to know the details of how something functions or what specific steps they have to take to use your product. They want to know what they’re going to gain by using your product, what’s in it for them – what is the final outcome. Will we get more product out the door? Will we be able to add additional billable value? Will there be some impact on our culture that helps us create the environment we want? The most successful salespeople sell outcomes more than they sell products.
So why would ideas be any different? It would be nice if every idea we had as leaders was embraced by the employees simply because we thought it was a good idea. That’s not how most organizations work. At some point you have to sell the idea to people so they execute it because they want to, not because you want them to.
And why would they want to? Because the outcome does something for them. They really aren’t interested in doing something so that the company can be more profitable or so you can hit some quarterly metric or anything like that. They want to know what benefit they personally will see. What is the final outcome. Does “so that the company can be more profitable” translate into bonuses? Pay? Some other kind of benefit? How does my life change if we hit our quarterly growth goal? If the answer is “not much”, then why would I get behind it. That’s especially true if whatever change I’m proposing looks like additional work. There better be some kind of outcome that makes my life better or forget it.
How do you sell your ideas? Do you take the time to understand and address how they’ll impact your people? Do you communicate those impacts? Too often leaders think that since they’re in charge they should have to do those things, that people should just do it because they said so. Don’t be one of those leaders – because nobody’s following.