Why be great at service when selling? Can’t we just be adequate or attentive? Why give the seemingly extra effort or focus that greatness would require? Can’t mediocre be good enough? Can’t being just attentive to customers be good enough?
It can if:
- Lower profits are O.K.
- Other things are more important.
- You can’t hire anyone with that type of attitude.
- You’re Ok with the problems that mediocrity brings.
Jim Collins Challenged by His Top Student
One of the best business books written in the last 50 years is Good to Great, which has 100 man/woman years of research and 20 men and women working on it for over 5 years. The author is Jim Collins, and he and his team studied 11 companies that started out as good, become great, and maintained that greatness over the years with financial performance 3 times that of other companies in their marketplace.
Here’s what he wrote after a student challenged him at Stanford University with the question: “Why should I build a great company? What if I just want to be successful?”
Jim said, “The question brought me up short. This was not a lazy person asking; he had started his own business as a young man, put himself through law school, and after graduate school became a driven entrepreneur. He has remarkable energy, and intense and infectious enthusiasm. Of all the students I’ve known over the years, he is the one that I’ve little doubt will be enormously successful. Yet he questions the whole idea of trying to build something great and lasting.
I can offer two answers. First, I believe that it is no harder to build something great than to build something good. It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity.
Indeed, if some of the other comparison companies in our study are an indication, it involves less suffering, and perhaps even less work. The beauty and power of the research findings is that they can radically simplify our lives while increasing our effectiveness. There is great solace in the simple fact of clarity– about what is vital and what is not.”
Jim went on to say, “Indeed, the point of this entire book is not that we should add these findings to what we are already doing and make ourselves even more overworked. No, the point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organize the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”
Good is the Enemy of Great
That’s what I believe can happen for a sales team that wants to make a lot of money by filling the needs of customers, being generous, engaging, and problem solvers. It’s a simpler process and vastly improves the culture.
Remember that mediocre or good just brings with it the problems and suffering of mediocrity. Strive to focus on the simple blocking and tackling that will make your sales team, your personal finances, or your relationships great. Don’t settle for good.
As Jim Collins starts his book, “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons while we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
I know you will not settle for mediocrity or good. I know you will strive for greatness and develop the sales muscle that will help you and those who work for you have outstanding incomes when business is great and survive at higher levels when the economy takes a downturn.
Customers will stay with you. They will buy more from you and will refer their friends and family. You will not work harder. You will just work with a great understanding for what will make the most profitable difference for those you serve.