CEO Insider

Creating certainty where there is no certainty

Ingrid Maynard
  • Tony Robbins says that people are motivated by different things.
  • One of them is uncertainty: enjoying the challenge of not knowing what’s ahead; variety if you will.
  • Others are motivated by certainty and the reassurance it brings.  

In today’s world, I would wager that even the former group may be overwhelmed by the current level of uncertainty, both ‘out there’ and ‘internally’. The latter literally or metaphorically rocking in a corner.

For those of us who are charged with leading sales teams in these constantly changing conditions, we know how tough the challenge and our sales teams face.

Many had hoped that as we headed into 2021, conditions around us would have improved with the vaccination roll out completed and the word COVID well and truly behind us.

The reality is far different, as new strains emerge and even nations that were beginning to open up, pulling the reigns back as infection numbers continue to rise around the world – COVID fatigue is real and is everywhere.

This leaves organisations who had entered 2021 focused on financially recovering from the hit they took last year have found the same limitations and frustrations of doing business are as real this year as they were in 2020.

Asking themselves, what do we do now?

Where does that leave an already uncertain workforce?

What we do know is that fear of losing our jobs doesn’t ignite action in our staff, in many ways it can make people inert.

Gartner Fellow Tina Nunno, says that when employees reach a certain level of stress they don’t innovate, they freeze, finding it difficult to take onboard new approaches or information, have difficulty processing rationally and stick to tried methods – even when those methods are not working.

Nunno’s solution is for leaders to minimise stress to maximise results – something easier said than done in the best of times.

As all sales leaders know, the top-down pressure to perform never fades, nor does the pressure from our teams to lead them through difficult times and to me the secret to success in this age of uncertainty is to understand that the rules have changed – as leaders we now require new skills to navigate the new world around us.

BUILD A DEEPER WELL

Deepen your internal resourcefulness by cultivating qualities that model the behaviours we want to see in our teams through:

  1. Cultivating Calm: Through establishing a daily routine that fills your emotional and psychological well so that you are approaching your day from a neutral / clean perspective rather than one that spills in the “dross” from other interactions and challenges. This is a discipline you need to adopt and practice each day.
  2. Demonstrate optimism: Focus on the opportunities that present themselves because of the challenge presenting itself. This is not to gloss over difficulty, it is because as author Napoleon Hill put so well, “every adversity has within it the seed of an equal or greater opportunity.”
  3. Modelling grit: As a leader you need to step up, your response is what your team will take their cues from. When your team sees you digging deeper, taking-action when it’s hard to do so, being able to reflect on that action to identify the learnings, and then applying those new learnings – showing such grit will transform the culture of your team.
  4. Connect with your team: Understanding how to support your team beyond skill and strategy is one of the most important qualities of leadership. By connecting with the key values of your team members and then aligning them with their professional goals is a skill that will accelerate performance.

With your well now deep, it is now time to fill it fully:

  1. Building competence for the market we are in NOW, not the market we were in BEFORE: Competence breeds confidence, not the other way around. So, with a remote workforce here to stay, make sure that you improve your coaching skills that will enable you to support a remote work force who are selling to a fellow remote work force.
  2. Get your sideline coaching right: With staff at home, you need to start thinking like a coach on the sideline. That means getting your message when you can’t be physically with them. Skilling up so you can remotely engage your team and reinforce what’s working, helping to set new actions for areas of their development.
  3. Get the tech right: Use technology to remove low value tasks so your sales team can focus on high value activities. Look at all the low value interactions your team has with customers and prospects and use the best tech available to ensure their time is delivering at the highest value to the business.

For the final fill of the well, you need to do what seems impossible, and that is to create certainty where there is no certainty.

  • Your behaviour and responses need to be disciplined so that you’re reliable, consistent and approachable.
  • Mechanisms such as weekly sales team meetings should have consistent agendas. This not only creates certainty, but also fosters team empowerment as it supports improved preparation, enables greater levels of accountability and ownership through allowing different team members to run particular elements of each meeting.
  • Planning is still important, so ensure that you have given your teams clarity over their territories and have provided them with the tools to maximise the opportunities that exist within them.
  • Skill your team so they can execute both remotely and in-person, helping them to prioritise their time, empowering them to make the call when things need to be done in-person, and what needs to be done remotely. When they make the right call as to when to interact online, in person or by phone will allow your team to get to as many opportunities as possible – regardless of what’s happening outside.

At the end of the day, we are humans leading humans, which can be easy to forget when there is so much noise around us. As leaders we are responsible for those in our charge, we need them to be more than just okay – and to delivering on that for our teams starts with us.


Written by Ingrid Maynard.

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Ingrid Maynard
Ingrid Maynard, Founder of The Sales Dr For over 20 years Ingrid Maynard has worked with Australian and international companies to arm front line sales people and their sales leaders with programs, tools, skills, processes and new behaviours that work. In a world of smart technology, Ingrid believes that our greatest competitive advantage will be how well our people engage, connect, question, influence, deliver, exceed expectations, and lead others.


Ingrid Maynard is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.