My Kingdom for Some Clarity – Victor Herstad, Vice President-Business Development, Amstand Companies
Needless to say, Ron Jensen impressed me with his first phone call, when it turned out that he knew more about Amstand than I did. At least, he knew more about the underlying problem that explains why I got this job: the little matter of our lagging organic growth rate, which my CEO, bless his heart, had chosen not to share with me.

But I was even more impressed when I met with Ron. He reminded me of someone. So did his GoTeam sales rep, Carrie Overton, actually. I finally figured out who it was.

About 10 years ago, when I worked for another company, I attended a professional conference that featured a workshop by a highly respected management consultant. The audience was packed with corporate vice presidents and some CEOs from mid-sized firms. I might have been the most junior person in the room. We were at round tables in a big auditorium, eight strangers to a table.

The consultant asked a number of audience members to call out the most pressing “people” issues facing their companies. The responses were predictable: “leadership,” “teamwork,” “communication,” and so on. Then he gave us an exercise: Name your company’s most important problem, then explain to the others at your table how you would know an improvement if you saw it.

The way he actually put it was, “What behaviors would you accept as evidence that leadership (or communication, etc.) had improved?”

There were easily 100 people in the room, but I don’t think more than five of them succeeded. Nobody at my table did. Even those who had been perfectly confident when naming something like “teamwork” as their No. 1 issue drew an embarrassing blank when they tried to explain what it was, exactly, that they wanted their employees to do differently.

‘Labeling an issue is one thing; understanding the issue well enough to do something about it is an altogether different matter.’

The point of the exercise was that labeling an issue is one thing; understanding the issue well enough to do something about it is an altogether different matter.

It was that consultant who came to mind as Ron and Carrie questioned me in an Amstand conference room about “sales efficiency and effectiveness.” They understood from the start that E&E was just a label. Their questions helped me to think through the things that we actually would have to do in order to make meaningful improvements.

‘Their questions helped me to think through the things that we actually would have to do.’

I felt as if a fog had lifted. For the three months I’d been in this job, I had been groping to define the right questions, never mind the answers. I walked out of a 90-minute meeting with Ron and Carrie feeling as if I’d made three years’ worth of progress.

Yes, I’m talking about a couple of salespeople…

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).