Perhaps some of you have seen the movie, “The Blind Side”. It’s a popular film about the true story of a rich, white couple (Leigh Anne and Sean Touhy) who take a poor, black 16 year old (Michael Oher, now a professional football player for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens) off the streets of Memphis, Tennessee and into their home.
While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ve just read the book by the same name written by Michael Lewis that the movie is based on. It’s a terrific read and more than just a story about football–it’s really about serendipity, family and love.
As I read the book, several parallels occurred to me between the story and the challenges that companies have in the ongoing development of their sales organizations.
Companies looking to develop high-performing sales organizations must focus on:
-Raising and managing expectations for their salespeople.
Once they got to know a little bit about Michael Oher and realized he had achieved virtually nothing in the Memphis public school system (at the time he had a 0.6 grade point average), the Touhy’s never stopped believing that, given his athletic ability, he had a great future in front of him if he put in the work on his school studies. And they consistently communicated their beliefs by the manner in which they set expectations for Michael–that he would do the necessary work, period. No rationalizing. No excuse-making. Get it done.
Sales leaders need to raise their expecations higher with their salespeople and communicate those expectatons clearly and consistently…and not back down, not give in, not accept excuses, poor economy or not.
-Helping their salespeople overcome their weaknesses.
Michael’s biggest area for improvement was his lack of an adequate education. Sean and Leigh Anne began an intensive tutoring program to accelerate his learning not only to be able to play on the football team but to guide him in day to day living. LeAnne commented, “Everyday I try to make sure he knows something he doesn’t know.”
In order for their salespeople to meet the expectations set for them, companies must identify those selling weaknesses that may prevent them from getting there. Once those obstacles are known, sales leaders should put together a plan to coach and develop their people until those weaknesses no long affect them in the sales process. Note: Work on only one weakness at a time and begin with the one that is the biggest roadblock to effective execution and performance.
-Preparing their salespeople for more responsibility and a higher level role.
In working with Michael, Sean and LeAnne Touhy’s guiding principle was this–football aside, they were willing to do whatever it took to prepare him for a fulfilling and rewarding life on his own. After Michael graduated from high school and entered the University of Mississippi, the Touhy’s purchased a home near the Ole Miss campus and continued to provide guidance and support because they felt he needed their continued help to be successful in college, in his anticipated NFL career and in life.
To prepare their people for more responsibility and a higher level role, sales leaders should develop their team to become “advisors” in the sales process rather than “salespeople”. This involves strengthening their sales skills, competencies and ‘presence’ to effectively interact with all levels of a prospect organization with an emphasis on C level executives.
There are many more lessons to be gained from “The Blind Side”. I can’t wait to see the movie.