It’s Not “OK” to Be “K”

The other day I was visiting with a group of people discussing sales performance improvement initiatives when one of those present referenced that they had been trained some years back in a particular sales methodology but that it hadn’t worked for them. I pressed this to get some clarification on what they meant by the statement “it didn’t work” and quickly discovered that what they should more accurately have said was, “I didn’t work at making it work.”

The reality is that although we live in a world that promotes “ease of use,” shortcuts, and instant gratification, a disciplined approach to selling and marketing still requires commitment, application, and above all hard work. However, this required attention to detail and diligence in sales call planning or marketing lead nurturing seems counterintuitive and overly cumbersome compared to hitting a “like” button or abbreviating a hugely taxing, letter-heavy word like “ok” down to “k” for ease of texting.

The temptation to dismiss the fundamentals of sales and marketing in the app-driven, social media nirvana that our working lives have migrated to is immense. Just because we have smartphones, apps, and a whole variety of cloud solutions literally at our fingertips, this does not somehow create an egalitarian marketplace. Far from it; just as in the old days when salespeople went from door to door, the most successful were the ones who researched the demographics, knew which neighborhoods to target, built a plan in advance, and executed diligently on it.

Today, instead of rows of houses or areas with high concentrations of physical businesses, marketing and sales battles are being played out in new arenas such as social media and online networking events, as well as the more traditional vehicles of phone, email, and face-to-face meetings. While this changes the rules of the game, it doesn’t necessarily change the game. The ones who win are still the ones who research, plan, and target. In other words, the winners still work harder and smarter than the rest.

Organizations need to celebrate and cherish those employees who are smart enough to recognize that discipline, hard work, and commitment are still the foundations of success—but who are also resourceful enough to adapt them to all the new ways of reaching customers. If you don’t acknowledge them, you surrender the field to pop culture, which preaches that a modicum of talent is all that it takes to jump on the expressway to success via The Voice or America’s Got Talent, or if you’re completely talentless but suitably obnoxious perhaps a reality show like the Jersey Shore can deliver you from the requirement to work hard and apply yourself to a job.

In our rush to embrace and leverage all the wonderful new technologies that can help our sales and marketing efforts, let us never lose sight of the fact that to excel in either discipline requires good old traditional hard work. Yes, hard work! There, I said it, k?

  John Golden is president and CEO of sales performance improvement organization Huthwaite where he is responsible for the company’s global financial and operational performance and long-term strategy for success.
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