This post harks back to one I wrote last year seeking to uncover when situations are not always as they seem in a sales situation. The title borrows from Jimi Hendrix’s individualistic anthem “If 6 was 9”. With Hendrix epitomizing the existentialist voice of the 1960s, the lyrics refer to constant change, counterculture, and things not being what they appear. It comes to mind again as I observe the difference between those who get by, and those who constantly make breakthroughs in their careers, and consequently contribute to the companies they work for, the customers they serve, or the teams in which they participate or lead.
On the surface, sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the 6 and the 9. Both turn up for work every day. They may be equally capable. Experience may appear to be equal, and often their professional training is the same. Does that mean though that they deliver the same results – Hell No!
I reprise this “If 6 was 9” conundrum because I believe we’re entering a period of massive change, turmoil and opportunity, and the catalysts of progress will undoubtedly be the 9s in your organization. We’re seeing tremendous confluence of technologies, industries heretofore separate – and in some cases sacrosanct – are morphing into new manifestation of new paradigms that borrow the best and throw away the rest. The Agile Imperative I referenced in a previous post has become a de-facto survival guide. The ubiquity of information, and pace of innovation in its delivery, transforms former value communicators into redundant empty vessels, their space being taken by those who, each and every day, craft new ways to create value. Positioned differentiation is being overtaken by true value difference, and demographic shifts in age and economic profile are coloring a different landscape to the picture we’ve all been more or less comfortable with.
Questions being asked by commentators and analysts a lot more erudite than this blogger should give real cause for concern to those who believe they have things figured out. For example, many wonder whether traditional marketing (certainly in a B2B sense) is relevant any longer. Those in print media living by the paid ad are seeing the impact of that every day. The rise of Software as a Service is now accepted as a real threat to elements of the traditional software business. But more and more this ubiquitous network that is the Internet, particularly in the Web Squared world, is threatening traditional service businesses. Peer to peer advice is three times more likely to be followed than ‘interested party’ advice. Customer experience is therefore a more powerful marketing engine than marketing. Social media had been the catalyst for the creation of independent listening posts. Broadcast doesn’t work any more. Context is everything, and context is determined by the customer – not by the vendor. Social media, which in many ways is still barely nascent, is exhibiting a rate of change we’ve never seen before. Myspace was the darling that was quickly overtaken by Facebook, whose crown was quickly stolen by Twitter, now being challenged as the hottest thing by FourSquare.
If you accept that any of this is true then you should be worried – unless you’re the one genius in the world who has figured the solution to this out all by yourself, or if you’re not surrounded by people who you can truly classify as 9s – not 6s masquerading as 9s. If you’re not a little bit scared; then look for around and commit to memory what you see – because you might not be seeing it for long.
Those in leadership positions in companies of all sizes have an opportunity every day to make decisions that will prove to be terminal for their company, department or business unit. New rules apply, and you need to have a great team around you to understand the evolving mixture and respond quickly. At The TAS Group, I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by some truly great people. Those that influence where we go, what improvements we make to our Dealmaker Sales Performance Automation platform, who inspire the evolution of our sales process and methodology inspiration are those who exhibit the attributes of a true 9.
- They show up wherever they can possibly make an impact
- They are fully immersed in our business
- They care about what might impact our customers
- They research our industry, our competitors, our partners, our customers
- Their thirst for knowledge is insatiable
- They’re never afraid to say ‘I don’t know what this means, can you help?’
- They accept failure – but don’t admit defeat too early
- They like to win
- They never dismiss competitive threats, but rather look to see what we need to do to improve our differential advantage
- They are always confident, but never arrogant
- They respect all other perspectives, seeing alternative views as an opportunity to learn
- They’re never afraid to challenge anyone’s opinion, knowing their challenge will be respected in turn
- They are never afraid to say – I screwed up, and take remedial action
- They are not afraid to take risks, except where it could detrimentally affect our customers
- At their core they are passionate
- They understand the need to have a strategic long-term view, and a short-term execution focus
- They exhibit what we call ‘Rightful Impatience’, an urgency to improve and progress, earned through effort and application
As a consequence, I’m driven to self-improve to lead this team. I’m always a little scared – but I have no fear. I owe that to the 9s.