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Sale vs operations...and the loser is...

Leaders and managers have been dealing with this epic battle since the first person sold a product and someone else had to get that product to the customer. Operations (or finance, logistics, marketing, etc) thinks sales is living the easy life wine and dining clients and making hoards of money. Sales thinks operations could care less and never reads the damn order especially the extra "notes" that says "don't deliver before 10 AM." Both sides are just "waiting" for the other side to screw up so they can run to their leaders inside their silos and claim victory that they are the better army. Many of these armies have seasoned "bus drivers" just waiting to roll over their enemy when any opportunity presents itself. As this battle rages on over the years the casualties pile up. The challenge is many of the leaders of these armies don't even realize the amount of losses that are really occurring during these internal battles.

The loser in this epic battle is your customer, and you and your leadership team is 100% responsible for those losses. When leadership allows these battles to rage on internally, the focus is no longer on winning your client over and delivering amazing customer service, its on winning the internal battle of who is the winning team within your organization. Why does this occur so often in so many companies? Managers are living in a "self-preservation" environment for themselves and their teams. They believe if they can make themselves and their teams look better internally, they win. Ultimately it's a short-term losing battle because if you can't win over more customers and keep your good ones, everyone loses.

The great news is if leaders learn to direct their armies to all work together, nobody loses, all your armies including the customer wins! So how do we end the internal battle and redirect or efforts towards delivering amazing customer experience? Here are a few tips for those leading those troops:

  • Follow-the-Leader – If you are running an organization it’s all on YOU. Ever hear parents of children who behave badly say “where do they get that from?” Trust me it’s NOT from the television shows they watch. One day when my son was five, my wife and I were in the kitchen laughing and joking around giving each other a hard time and we both “flipped” each other off (two-handed). Three days later our school called to tell us our son who was having a ball in school giving everybody the finger! We had no idea he was even around! It’s the same with the team you lead. When you think they don’t see or hear you or know what you are thinking, THEY KNOW! Leaders, you create the culture, the atmosphere, the communication, the success, the ability to collaborate and listen. Never talk negatively about another department or person. Anything you say “in confidence” is NEVER in confidence! How you feel about other departments, people, policies etc, will reflect on the behavior of your team. Lead your people towards an amazing customer experience. That’s what you should be talking about.

“Your team’s culture is a direct reflection of your thoughts, behavior, words and actions.”

  • Leaders Get Over Yourself - If you are managing a team, department, or organization, your ultimate measure of success should be how well your entire organization creates an amazing customer experience. When you redirect your focus from trying to make yourself or your team look good, and direct it towards the customer, everybody wins. If you are only focused on yourself or how well your team performs, you are setting yourself and team up for failure.
  • He Who Blames is Lame – “It’s not my job, it’s not my fault, they did this, they did that, my guy forgot this, she didn't perform, blah, blah, blah.” If you as a leader speak in any form of this language, your customer loses. Stop the blame game. Always be asking, “How can we make this better for the customer?”
  • Cross-Training – There are many benefits to cross-training your employees. Cross-training helps create bench strength in case of turn-over or an employee is out sick, it also helps employees with career development by training that employee on new skills. But the greatest asset to cross-training for your company is it puts everybody in each other’s “shoes.” It is amazing how skewed our view is of the other person’s job we are working with. Cross-training does not have to be complicated, but every company should do it. Every employee should spend a day or more working in the other departments they interact with. Salespeople should work in the warehouse and load trucks. Operations should in the field or on the phone with sales and the customer. You would be amazed how quickly the barriers break down once everyone understands they are all in it together.
  • Cross- Departmental Meetings – If a department is meeting to make changes, improve processes, or implement a new policy, it’s always a good idea to have representation from other departments there. I’m not talking about the senior big-wigs who are never in the warehouse or are rarely out in the field with the customer, I’m talking about your soldiers on the ground and in the field. When operations are in a room making a decision to change a process or procedure, how do they know how that will affect the customer from a sales perspective? When marketing decides to repackage a product how will that affect the warehouse and how that package is stored and even shipped? How many times have departments come out of planning sessions, implemented new policies and procedures and other departments came up and said “did you take this into consideration, which will totally negatively affect this and that, and everything else?” Make sure you have representation from other departments to help shape your policies and procedures. Also when agreed upon, you will have many more flag-bearers selling your department and why the changes were made.
  • Get All the Liars in the Room – Whenever there is a conflict between people from different departments stop playing the “he said she said” game and get everybody in a room or on the phone and solve the issues immediately. Remember your focus is on avoiding the blame game and finding a solution that benefits the customer. I am amazed at how often people go back and forth with emails, conversations, gossiping, etc about a problem and the lack of managers who will take the reins, get everybody together and solve that problem. Once you get everybody together your solutions usually come quickly and easily.
  • March in Sync – There are some departments and people that have the ability to march faster than others at different stages of your company’s evolution. It is critical that you focus your team on marching in sync with everybody else. Having your team run ahead is no way to win your customer over. There is nothing wrong with friendly competition, but in the end you should all be crossing the finish line together. How often do you ask other managers what your department can do to make their life/jobs easier? Ask often.
  • All Leaders Communicate the Same Message to the Troops – Creating an awesome client experience should be your mantra day in and day out. You communications should focus on how your stellar teams are creating an amazing customer experience. Every leader should be speaking the same language.
  • Reward Collaboration – Individual recognition is great, but if you can recognize cross-functional teams and their success you will be encouraging those armies to work together. Was there a problem with a client that your teams had to work together to fix? Did you company earn an award? Don’t just get a picture of the sales person, who scored that huge sale, get a group photo of the people who helped with the contract, the team who shipped it, the marketing team that developed the presentation all together! There is nothing wrong with friendly competition as long as the winner is the client.

This battle will continue to rage on as long as we have managers who are more concerned with self-preservation, rather than the success of the entire organization. What those managers don’t realize is that successful leaders become even more successful when they can break down those silos and bring their troops together to deliver a world class customer experience.

Leaders if you read this and think your team should adopt these ideas you've read it wrong, THIS MESSAGE IS FOR YOU. Its starts with YOU.

Let me know what you do as a leader to break down those silos and lead an army to an amazing customer experience. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Jim Koza is an agent of transformation. Jim helps energize organizations in diverse industries take their sales and marketing teams to the next level both nationally and internationally. Jim would love to hear from you and is always up for a strategy conversation, life or business coaching, or even idea swapping. 

Here’s a link to Jim’s original post on LinkedIn: