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Ken Keller: How serious are you about improving sales?

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: May 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The opening few minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” are said to be the most realistic battle scenes ever created for film.

U.S. Army Ranger Capt. John H. Miller, played by Tom Hanks, finds himself and his men on Omaha Beach, nowhere near their planned landing zone. Under murderous fire (it was estimated that 2,000 American soldiers died that day on Omaha Beach), Miller leads his men through the bluffs and takes out the German pillboxes firing down on the near-helpless soldiers below. 

Hollywood had it mostly right.

What really took place was that Brig. Gen. Norman Cota led his men off that bloody sand of Omaha Beach by standing tall under enemy fire and yelling at his frightened men: “I don’t have to tell you the story. You all know it. Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead, and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts and move inland!”

As the Allied troops moved inland toward their goal — the destruction of the German army and the conquest of Germany itself, it slowly dawned on them — first individually, and then, as small groups: They were not being relieved from combat except short periods to regroup and re-equip.

Put another way, there were only two ways to get out of combat. The first was to be wounded seriously enough to be in the hospital for an extended period of recovery, and the second was to win the war. Only when the war was won would the soldiers be permitted to return home. 

There can be no comparison between D-Day and the war in Northern Europe to the economy today, but there are similarities that are worth highlighting.

Definition of success
The first point of similarity is the definition of success. Success for many companies who want to grow is defined as the company getting bigger. A company not operating to potential should focus first on top-line revenue growth. A company that wants to insure continued success needs to do the same.

Much like those soldiers fighting in Europe who discovered the only way out of the situation they found themselves in was to win battles and ultimately the war, the same is true for many companies today. Top-line growth solves most problems facing businesses today.

Is your company really on the attack for more business, or are people just going through the motions?  

Move forward
The second point is that the Americans, from the generals to the privates, understood that they needed to move forward and take ground away from the enemy every day. Retreats such as the Battle of the Bulge, were short term, and attacks were soon launched to take back lost territory quickly.  

For those running a business and for those in sales, the question is: What does your daily attack plan look like? Does it consist of salespeople sitting around the office, or does it mean a full schedule of appointments with prospects, current clients and referral sources?

Is your business seriously on the attack every day in an effort to expand?

Pair with seasoned pros
The third point is that training took place under fire. As American casualties grew, individual replacements moved forward into combat units. When replacements arrived, they paired with seasoned vets instructed to impart the basics of combat so more soldiers would survive. The replacements found themselves hardened combat vets very shortly, training the next replacements.

Businesses would be wise to pair up sales people and get rookies in the field as soon as basic training is completed. It comes back to the concept of gaining ground and making calls. Successful sales happen face-to-face with the prospect not sitting in the office waiting for the phone to ring. On-the-job training works and facilitates faster ramp-up time and quicker results.

Is your company pairing sales people to increase the odds of successful daily attacks?

The Allies’ victory in 1945 came not because the Allies had more troops, better equipment or a larger air force.

Victory came because the foot soldiers on the front lines were motivated by a goal, led by officers and noncommissioned officers who cared for them. And individuals were paired together to insure day-to-day forward motion toward the final objective.

The same thing can be true for companies today who want to grow. Are you willing to take command of yourself and others to make it happen every day?

Ken Keller is chief executive officer of STAR Business Consulting, Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at (661) 645-7086 or at Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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