Dick Cross and I hung up the phone after an engaging 15-minute conversation. We had met earlier in the week when he had been the guest speaker at a meeting of CEOs.
Judging by the audience's reception, he had done pretty well. He answered a question — one that was on everyone's mind but rarely asked: In our $15 trillion U.S. economy that sees the birth and demise of thousands of companies each year, how do I run one that makes it?
Curiously, the EXACT same question is often tossed around the minds of sales people and their leaders about their territories and even their careers — and the answer lies parallel to Dick's.
In his book, "Just Run It," he outlines a "tri-focal" lens for CEOs of Vision, Strategy and Execution. (I smiled when I read it, because it echoed a talk that I had given a week earlier that stressed "Think Bigger, Think Differently, Think 'Action'.")
Here are quick definitions:
Vision is that bigger picture of the future combined with core values and a statement of purpose.
Strategy is the choice of gears that we use in our business engine and how they fit together — that is, how we get from A to B.
Execution combines the operations plan and the budget — WHAT we'll do every day, and the funds expected and expended.
Clearly, this doesn't apply only to CEOs.
Stephanie B is a top-tier medical sales rep and, frankly, one of the best I've ever seen. A clearer vision of a territory is hard to imagine. She defined sales-oriented values that were in concert with the company and even went beyond in some areas.
Stephanie determined what expectations her customers would experience in their interactions with her and set the bar high. The support team assigned to her immediately bought in to her philosophy and purpose and, collectively, they produce more than any other team.
In terms of strategy, her battle plan was just as clear as her "operating values." Before making dial No. 1, she knew how many practices were in her territory, their probability of buying, what products would be best received, what medical centers they were tied to and what their operational cadence was.
She actually researched which days they were busiest/slowest/most in need/on vacation, etc. Her time was optimized because she had weekly, monthly and annual strategies that were in line with her vision and made execution easier.
The third leg of Stephanie's style is execution. She has an operational plan for cold calling, sales calls, follow-up, in-services, field visits and button-up calls that is staggeringly detailed. Her notes in the CRM are impeccable and current, because she has proven to herself that knowledge of her customer makes her more valuable to them.
Because she performs to her daily plan and because she knows her budget so well, she can predict her own commission check in the first week of the month with surprising accuracy. When something errs, she normally has a contingency plan.
Is it any surprise that her territory is so successful? That people want to know her "secret?" That she is honored by compatriots and competitors alike? She approaches her territory as a CEO does a company: with vision, strategy and execution.
She just runs it.