How Sales and Marketing Can Inspire Productive Action Instead of a Rat Race

Three rats racing above at the back of a plate on a white backgroundIf you are like me, when you started out your career years ago success didn’t come as fast you hoped. Not by a long shot.

Along with other salespeople I worked hard to improve my performance. I acquired product and application experience, selling skills and time management expertise. Along with our managers, we mightily executed product launches, campaigns, and trained salespeople and distribution channels.

Sometimes we succeeded, and sometimes we didn’t. Always we redoubled our efforts, resolving to try harder. Which usually involved more work. And, sorry to say, “taking a process approach” fell into that category as well.

Eventually, something began to dawn on us. It seemed no matter how hard we tried, no matter what our process was, our efforts only affected the odds a tiny bit. Sometimes, poor results were not evidence of our failure, they were evidence the business might be going in the wrong direction.

I don’t know about you, but that’s when things feel like a rat race to me. I bet you’ve felt this too.

Why does this happen?

No Shared Understanding

After transitioning through four different industries in 20 plus years, I realized the patterns were repeating. One of them was no shared understanding of what customers wanted.

What our eyes saw in the field could be quite different than what senior executives assumed was happening. Salespeople had drastically different theories about how to succeed. Marketers, and the finance department had entirely different impressions of our situation. Few people could predict which initiatives would work. Lots of great products flopped.

We knew when we had stinkers on our hands, though. Selling blue things when the market wanted red ones was a waste of time. Sales contests wouldn’t increase sales. Failing to deliver what the customer expected was a killer.

So, WHY was there no shared understanding?

Because we are preoccupied with WHAT we (and our products) do.

Unfortunately, people don’t buy based on WHAT you do, they buy WHY you it.

Simon Sinek explains this brilliantly in his TED talk – If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it now. If you have seen it, it is worth watching again. In a nutshell:

  • People buy from Apple because Apple tells them it challenges the status quo and thinks differently. They want to be like that.
  • The Wright Brothers succeeded despite incredible competition, because their team was on a mission: flying would change the world!
  • 250 thousand people showed up to hear Martin Luther King speak, because they shared his dream.

How to you get people to do things for themselves, that also happen to be the precise things you want them to do?

Explain WHY you exist, the common purpose you intend to achieve. Value moves people, by attracting some and repelling others. You need both!

How Can You Adopt This New Mindset?

If you are like me, you’re sick and tired of diminishing returns. You want out of the rat race of things one buys, ads, and collateral no one reads, trade shows, promotions, “leads,” and proposal labor wasted, and prospects and customers who don’t recognize your value.

At SPC, we believe sales and marketing should be a system designed so the CUSTOMER will follow it.

It is not something you do to them, it is something you do with them, and for them. Everything that enables the right customer actions creates value. Anything else is waste.

Businesses require a shared understanding of how that system works. That shared knowledge – not the opinion of some VP or outside consultant – is what enables them to determine which changes will create improvement.

This production system approach to sales and marketing is OUR big why. It is a better way of managing because it closes the loop via evidence and data.

Lean process excellence merely provides the “how to” methods that define and improve the system. The result is a fully developed methodology you can read about on your own in Sales Process Excellence. Or, you can collaborate with us to help you achieve your goals.


Chances are, your company already stands for something. Clarifying THAT can inspire actions your customers – and your employees – can share.

Most importantly, it is the purpose that distinguishes value from waste in your production system, enabling you to make the changes that get you out of the rat race.




Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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