Sales Leadership Lessons From Geese

Last week one of my friends sent me a link to a video on YouTube called “Leadership Lessons from Geese”. It is a somewhat sappy video that extracts lessons in leadership and teamwork from the behavior of geese.

The first observation in the video is the role of aerodynamics to enable the geese to fly farther using less effort.  When the geese fly in the familiar “V” formation, they are able to fly 71% further. The lift generated by the goose in front is passed back to the geese that follow. The lesson to be learned: we will go further through teamwork than if we “fly solo”.

Okay, for a lot of sales people this is probably a good reminder, but reducing it to just teamwork is over simplifying. It is the force of the aerodynamics in conjunction with the teamwork that gives the group 71% lift. So the challenge for a sales leader is to figure out what is at her disposal that will increase by orders of magnitude the ‘lift’ and ‘distance’ her team flies? To get the multiplier effect, sales leaders need to work with their teams to build out the sales process and sales playbooks. The goal is to find efficient and effective ways to share best practices across the sales team, thereby ‘lifting’ the performance of the entire team.

One-on-one coaching and mentoring doesn’t give you 71% lift. There are only so many hours in the day. If the only way to share information, ideas and what it takes to close a deal is by a sales manager riding along, the capacity to raise the team is limited. There is no scalability in this model. To go back to our geese analogy, instead of the team in a “V”, you have a series of paired geese. And with only two geese instead of a whole flock there isn’t much aerodynamic advantage being created.
On the other hand by defining, documenting and standardizing your sales process, you start to create a system that can lift the whole team. Take a portion of the time you spend coaching under-performers to talk to your stars.  What are they doing differently?  Capture it and share it with the whole team.  Now we start to get lift across the whole team not just with one individual.

This is perhaps oversimplified as well. The task of standardizing a sales process and sharing it effectively is not to be underestimated. Where do you start?  You start by having the vision of what you are trying to achieve. Then you take one step at time.