Sales Leaders: Boost your immunity to thrive in a VUCA world

Mick McCormick
Mick was born and raised in Zimbabwe and after leaving school he studied teaching and taught primary school for three years. The exciting prospect of living overseas lured him to London where he started his sales career in 1970. He spent three years selling in a highly motivating but competitive environment with excellent coaching and mentoring in sales before returning to Zimbabwe.

Mick moved to Johannesburg in 1975 and was National Sales Manager for a highly successful business equipment company for eleven years. During this time he spent twelve weeks in the United States on intensive Sales and Sales Management courses and decided to open McMcormick Institute of Training in 1986. Mick has conducted over 4500 Leadership, Sales, and Customer Experience Workshops with delegates totalling in excess of fifty thousand. He also conducts exclusive One on One Coaching and Mentoring Programs and is regarded by many as a guru in the Leadership Sales and Customer Experience arena.

His ability to customise both content and the style of facilitation for each intervention he conducts has enabled Mick to become one of the most trusted and respected Leaders in the development of Human Capital in South Africa.

Listen to Mick McCormick's 12 min interview with on "Boost your (Business) immunity to thrive in a VUCA world"

We can't do this! The economy is just too volatile and uncertain. It is just too complex.

I come across many business owners who echo this sentiment. Doing business in South Africa is leaving them feeling doubtful and lethargic. This is one of the symptoms of a VUCA world.

VUCA is an acronym that originated in the American Military to describe extreme conditions that soldiers would have to face in Afghanistan and Iraq. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous or as I prefer in the business world, Accelerated. It fits like a glove when we look at the South African business environment.

I then pose the question: “Instead of focussing on the challenging economic environment, why don’t we rather  implement a strategy that will elevate the effectiveness, professionalism and customer centricity throughout the whole organisation in order for me to take advantage of the VUCA world?”

The problem: Diagnosis and prognosis

Too often Business owners and their leaders, lose hope. This hopeless mindset percolates down through the entire organisation, until all come down with the pervasive loss of belief in positively dealing with their challenges.

Unfortunately, business owners and their leaders seldom see the value of investing and immunising their companies against a dramatically changing world. Like the serpent eating its own tail, sales and support merely mirror the macro-economy. A change of  mindset is needed.

We have to find an answer to the question “How do I boost my business immunity to thrive in a VUCA world?”

The solution: Empower your staff to perform beyond their abilities.

The threats of a VUCA world are not finite. They are changing and becoming more challenging. How can Business owners and leaders ensure their entire company is immunised against these threats? Just ask Sir Richard Branson:  “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” …. Branson’s not alone in his opinion. Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia says, “Developing highly effective and professional employees is how you win.”

As individual companies we have little to no effect on the state of the economy. It is, however, completely within your power to change the way your company does business. Administering an immune booster is not as difficult as you think. Your company’s shot in the arm looks like this:

The right stuff

Even the most technologically advanced wonder product with a marketing budget bar none will fail if you do not have the right staff in the right positions. Hunt down talent with the determination of a bull. Do not be afraid of moving people to positions better suited to their specific skill sets. Without the right puzzle pieces, it is impossible to recreate the picture on the box.

Follow the leaders

Never underestimate the importance of developing your managers’ leadership skills. Strong leadership gives your employees a sense of belonging and pride. This positive energy trickles down through the entire organism that is your company. Strong leaders become staff mentors and coaches injecting infectious enthusiasm to counteract the doubt and uncertainty that comes with operating in a VUCA world. Investing in their development is your first step to thriving in a world where others stumble.

Down to the core

Whether you are peddling pressure cookers or selling soliciting services, sales is where your revenue originates.  It just makes sense to develop your sales force into just that - a force to be reckoned with. You need to put your money where your mouth is - even the most talented and extroverted sales-person knows this.

This innate ability to become a strategic business partner for their potential customer needs to be augmented with some technical know-how, mentoring and coaching from leaders to develop true, competent sales professionals. Be cognisant of the fact that sales in a VUCA world is challenging. Your sales team will need training and empowerment to  positively affect your bottom line. Added to this, the fact that your sales force should be the brand ambassadors of the company, it becomes crystal clear why investing in their development is a key factor to the companies success.

Having a backbone

Your support staff is your company’s skeleton. Support staff enable the sales force. On the back of their work, excellent customer service is possible. As customer-facing entities, their seamless professional conduct is vital. Developing and empowering your support staff is the cherry on top of a multilayered cake ensuring satisfied, loyal customers. These employees are in the position to build strong relationships with customers. Gone are the days when companies could use their products as a differentiator. The vital differentiator for companies is creating a delightful customer experience. Developing a strong, efficient and proud support staff complement is a no-brainer in a VUCA world.

A golden thread

Developing your staff and empowering them with the specific skills needed in their area of operation is a good start to immunise your company against VUCA symptoms.

Your employees are people with their own hopes and dreams. Training your staff to do their respective jobs even beyond their abilities is an act of faith that might align their will to succeed with your company’s vision of thriving in a VUCA world.

"There is nothing easier than being busy. But nothing more vital than becoming effective." - Mick McCormick

Cultivating a culture of efficiency is the other golden ticket.

Never go on a mission without backup

Now that you have the framework, find a strategic business partner who is committed to aligning their development programs to boost your company’s immune system.

Merely throwing some training material and development programmes at this problem won’t solve a thing.  Rather, find yourself the strategic partner, who will do a thorough diagnosis of your business and then design a company-specific learning intervention that is aligned with the company objectives. Your partner should also be prepared to follow through, since your plan is worth nothing if someone does not assist and oversee implementation.

The objective is not merely surviving…

As CEO or business leader, you are your company’s north star. Your leadership guides them to success. Adopt this can-do attitude despite the turmoil around you, empower your staff with the same passionate approach to their jobs. Changing the way you do business in a VUCA world will see your company thriving in the volatile, uncertain, complex and accelerated economic  landscape.