I am fortunate to work with some of the most successful businesses in the U.S., and gain daily exposure to many internationally. While there's no doubt times are tough, the strong will survive and those with an aggressive winning attitude will rise to the top.
I will say there is a major difference between those companies that are positive and energized and those that are tired, complacent, and confused. The clear differentiator is a winning attitude.
How do you get that winning attitude? I'd like to share some key lessons learned during a recent sales conference with Complete Office Supply (COS), the largest independent office products distributor in Australia. COS knows about competition, operating on that diverse island country with the population of Los Angeles, where many aggressive players are vying for the business.
After getting to know COS, I developed a greater appreciation for what it really takes to win at this game. COS showed me their winning attitude and how to motivate others with "PUC." This was a new word for me, but I learned it early and heard it often throughout the conference—it was their acronym for "passion, urgency, and commitment."
Following a 20-hour flight anda taxi to Rydalmere, I joined their leadership team for the first meeting of the conference. We started our session with an overview of the strategies, tactics, and programs other companies were using in the U.S. COS maintained industry activity in the states would arrive in their country within six to nine months; they wanted to get ahead of the curve.
We shared ideas, successes, and best practices for competing and having sustainable profitable business growth. We ended the day with a "motivating others" seminar, which they took very seriously. What I saw in the first five hours was great leadership and fun-loving, hard-working, enthusiastic people with a clear vision and direction for their company.
Lesson 1: It's all about the customer. We all know the customer is king; take care of them or someone else will. COS had gone above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty through their "BrickWalling" concept. This approach enables the sales representative to measure customer relationship activities, the customer's reliability of logistics, and to set goals continuously looking for ways to improve.
For each customer, COS established priorities and created action plans; they were clearly a proactive, customer-centric organization. To COS, customer orientation also meant being aware of and responding to changing customer needs. Among the questions I frequently heard: "What does the customer want?" "What do you think the customer would think?" "What can we do better for the customer?"
No complacency here. At COS, customer service and customer satisfaction had a sense of urgency—the "U" in PUC.
Do what you say you're going to do with a sense of urgency, get active with the employees, and visit your customers.
Lesson 2: Adapt to change with strategic thinking. COS didn't base its strategic approach on mimicking the power channel, but rather, on doing things the power channel wasn't doing and doing it better. This approach means understanding your competition, the strengths of your company, and playing from a position of strength. It requires aligning your resources, people, and vision appropriately, and then executing the plan through great leadership and talented people. Said COS president Dominique Lyone many times during my visit: "Just because they are doing it doesn't mean we need to. We need to do something different and better."
Don't wait for the economy to pick up. What are you doing to change and improve?
Lesson 3: Energize through reward and recognition.
We all know how important reward and recognition is for motivation. I saw it demonstrated loud and clear on day two of the sale conference. I was a guest on a preplanned surprise day for the high achievers club, those who met or exceeded their quotas for the year.
The day began with a one-hour speedboat ride on Sydney Harbor. Describing it as "fast" doesn't do this thrill ride justice; the speedboat repeatedly did 360-degree turns before slamming on its brakes after reaching record speeds.
The second adventure (which, thank goodness, I was much too seasick to join) took place at Center Point, the tallest building in Australia. High achievers were cable-strapped and led on an outdoor walk with a glass floor, 268 meters above Sydney.
Their next stop was The Rocks and the Italian Village for one of the finest lunches in Sydney. Here is where everyone met the sales managers, relaxed, enjoyed a cocktail or two and ended their adventurous day…or so they thought.
The gathering was unexpectedly rocked by the thunder of 26 Harley-Davidson motorcycles lined up outside for these high achievers. They were taken on a motorcycle tour through Sydney, up the coast to Bondi Beach, and then back to the hotel—just in time to get showered and dressed for the formal awards dinner.
This was reward and recognition of the highest order. As the honored guests received their awards and gave their acceptance speeches, their quota against achievement was projected behind them, accompanied by a theme song chosen by their manager.
In many companies, the importance of recognition is often forgotten. During his acceptance speech, one high achiever said this in appreciation of the great day and his award: "Thank you, it means a lot to me. I'm sure you've heard about recognition—babies cry for it, men die for it."
So what are you doing to inspire and motivate your sales team, other than their paycheck?
Lesson 4: Provide inspiring leadership. On the tour bus, Lyone stood in front of his high achievers, shared his vision for growth, thanked them for their hard work, and congratulated them for their contribution and achievement. At the anniversary celebration, he stood on a new forklift with his four-year-old in his arms, sharing his hopes for the future with his salespeople.
Later, after cutting the anniversary cake (a replica of a COS brand paper carton) he discussed his vision for the next 30 years, and the company's goal of $100 million by 2010. He talked about how his family came to Australia when he was five years old, with a dream of prosperity in a new country. As he spoke, I watched the faces of his employees, and felt the energy and electricity of this organization and these people.
Customer-centric, strategic thinking, reward and recognition, and providing inspiring leadership…COS makes it all look so easy. We all know that it isn't, of course, but there's certainly much to learn from this most remarkable company on the other side of the world.
SMM online columnist Krista Moore is president of K.Coaching, LLC, an executive coaching and consulting practice. For more information and free resources, go to www.buildyourships.com or www.kcoaching.com.