When Major Sales "Surgery" is Needed...

My friend Ken is finally having his second hip surgery tomorrow. Ken is a former senior executive who built a thriving consulting practice for corporate sustainability before the ink was dry on his retirement paperwork.

Ken knows the drill for recovering from hip surgery, and he’s ready. He had the first hip done four or five years ago, and his quality of life improved dramatically. His favorite activity, golf, was transformed from an 18-hole death march to an opportunity to chat and enjoy the day.

Unfortunately, the prolonged compensation for the first bad hip eventually made surgery on the second mandatory.

After teeing off on a beautiful February day in Florida, Ken and I are motoring down the fairway in a golf cart. As has usually been the case since his hip problems began, Ken’s tee shot is short and to the right. He just can’t come around and strike the ball like he should. Then Ken shares the news.

“I finally bit the bullet and scheduled my second hip surgery. I’m going under the knife again in April,” he says.

“Ken, that’s great news,” I reply. “I know you’ve been in a lot of pain.”

“Everett, I know I’m going to feel a lot better afterwards. It’s just taken me this long to get mentally ready for the preparation and the down time. Thanks for putting up with my crappy golf in the interim.”

Ken’s story certainly isn’t unique among joint replacement patients, but the way he described his decision-making journey struck a chord for me. I had recently been in conversations with the leaders of two sales organizations where it was clear major surgery was needed to get to better performance. Both those leaders chose to postpone, because they couldn’t bring themselves to focus on executing the transformation (“we’re not ready yet; we need more internal alignment.”)

Is it Time for Sales Surgery?

Are you hobbling around with a sales team that’s causing you great pain? Does it routinely fall short and off- line, suggesting the only solution is a major overhaul? Are you living in a state of denial that sales transformation is your highest priority?

If you answered with a reluctant “yes” on multiple counts, it’s time to take action to get your revenue generation machinery to a better place.

Here are four ways to face the challenge:

  1. Build the business case, using expert external advice if necessary, to build a roadmap. Ken listened to his doctor’s opinion that surgery was the only option, and that things would only get worse.

  2. Engage internal stakeholders. Ken’s secret weapon is his wife Mimi, without whom the recovery would be significantly tougher. Leverage your business partnerships to enable the transformation rather than allow them to randomly become roadblocks.

  3. Focus on the destination. Ken’s decision became easier when he formed a vision of pounding balls down the center of the fairway. Transformation won’t happen if you’re focused on being cooped up popping pain pills. Vision should be the foundation of your internal and external communication, as well as a guide for your planning.

  4. Execute relentlessly. Post-surgery, Ken worked religiously with a physical therapist to perform the prescribed stretching and strengthening exercises. Any joint surgeon will tell you that good outcomes are more likely when the patient actively engages in their own recovery. Here again, external advice may accelerate better performance, and maximize your ultimate sales growth.

With these four preparations in mind, you’ll be positioned to take your sales effectiveness to the next level. Ken, best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Everett Hill works with CEOs and CSOs to grow B2B sales. With his help they achieve new levels of sales performance, by connecting their competitive strategy to tactical execution and customer experience. Prior to his consulting career, he was a sales leader and General Manager with significant P&L responsibility in manufacturing and distribution companies. He holds an engineering degree from Princeton University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.