5 Quick Tips for Sales Leaders to Combat Status Quo

You’ve probably heard the age-old story of the little girl who, while helping her mother cook a holiday meal for the entire family asks, “Mom, why are you cutting the ends off of the ham before you put it in the oven?”

The mother responds, “Well, you know what dear, I’m not totally sure, it’s just that, well, your grandmother had taught me to cook it this way many years ago, so that’s just how I’ve always done it.”

As luck would have it grandma was coming to the holiday dinner that day, so the little girl got to go straight to the source.

She asked her grandma, “My mom cut off both ends of the ham before she put it into the oven to cook it. She said you taught her to cook it that way. Why is that, Grandma?”

The grandmother laughed and said, “What? She’s still cooking it that way? Sweetie, when your mother was a little girl we didn’t’ have a pan big enough for the ham so we had to do it that way. There’s no reason to cook it that way now.”

How often do we still do things because it’s just the way that we’ve always done things?

For example, in soccer, professional goal keepers have a 33.3 percent better chance of stopping penalty kicks if they stay in the center of the net. So, you would imagine that all goal keepers do this, right?

Actually, only 6.3 percent of goal keepers stay in the center because, according to a study by Michael Bar-Eli, it looks and feels better to have missed the ball by diving, even if the results are worse. It’s how they’ve always been taught to do it before.

The sport of baseball has more unwritten rules based on tradition than perhaps any sport. Old school wisdom says, if you have a base runner on first base with no outs, you’re going to sacrifice bunt the runner over to scoring position. This is what the majority of major league teams do because it’s what they’ve always been taught to do.

The problem is with today’s access to data and market intelligence we now know that you just decreased your chances of scoring by a fraction under 25 percent of the time.

It’s time to stop the madness.

As a sales leader, finding a way to monetize using this information is key to success. I encourage every sales leader to read “Why Organizations Don’t Learn.”


5 Quick Tips for Sales Leaders to Combat Status Quo 

1. When people are taught a growth mindset, they become more aware of opportunities for self-improvement

In sales, I often find that many of us read the same books. However, one book that I highly recommend, which I’ve found not a lot of people know about is, Carol Dweck’s “Mindset.”

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) also recommends this book as a terrific read, and as a leader I encourage sales leaders to read it and help develop their own mindset and the mindset of their teams.

2. Don’t let fear ruin their “funk”

You hired them for a reason — let them be “them.” Leaders have too often unconsciously institutionalized a fear of failure. In the Daniel Coyle’s book, “The Talent Code,” you’ll read outstanding examples of people becoming the superstar version of themselves by being in an environment that is error-focused. As a leader, create an environment that allows errors and grow from them.

3. Sharpen the saw

Toyota is widely regarded as a tremendously successful company. One of its pillars of its famed business philosophy is continuous improvement. As HBR goes on to explain in this article, after problems in 2009 led Toyota to recall more than nine million vehicles worldwide, it’s leaders confessed that their quest for success had compromised their devotion to learning.

This bias towards success must not come at the cost of ongoing improvement. You won’t find the time to sharpen the saw, you need to plan and invest the time to sharpen it.

4. Bias towards action

I remember working as a cook at a Bob Evan’s restaurant, while in in high school, and my manger Marty telling me, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” The moral of the story is to stay busy and do something.

I probably have had the same mentality throughout most of my career. However, I’ve been trying to improve. I now encourage my team to reflect after doing something, to learn where they’ve won and where they’ve lost. It’s okay to take time to just think and reflect. Do more of this.

5. Leaders need to lead

Sales leaders must lead the change towards a more productive work environment. They should allow their teams, even force them, to take 30 minutes at the end of each day and reflect on how they did. What could they have done better? Where do they need help? And, take additional time if needed and plan out their next day.

Just like goal keepers and baseball players need to learn from the new data and market intelligence, so do today’s business leaders. You won’t find a stat that doesn’t prove that taking the time to think through, write down and organize how one is going to invest their time the next day will greatly enhance the mindset, happiness and yes, the productivity of everyone who is disciplined enough to add this exercise and habit to their routine.

Good luck!