I spent half the day today at a little conference called Boyd & Beyond. The conference was held on the Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia. The goal of the conference is to bring together a group of people who think deeply—and apply—the work of a relatively obscure Air Force Colonel, John Boyd.
Tackling who John Boyd was, his life’s work, and why he is so important to the Marines and not the Air Force is too much to tackle here. More still, it’s only necessary to know that John Boyd is the American Sun-Tzu.
Boyd was a tremendous, one-of-a-kind thinker. He made a ton of great observations, but the one that was repeated a number of times today bears repeating here: People, ideas, and technology—in that order. Boyd loved all three, but his bias was that people are what win wars. Ideas are what allow you to cope with a changing environment, to adapt and overcome. And technology should serve the first two—not the other way around.
If you are going to win in the great game of sales, there is no more important than your people. People are more important than the sales process you choose. They are more important than any methodology you install. And they’re exceedingly more important than any technology you employ. Sales organizations—and businesses more generally—would do well to listen to Boyd here.
After people come ideas like your strategy, your sales process, your sales methodologies, and your value proposition. One of my favorite quotes from the other American Sun-Tzu—Mike Tyson—is this: “Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the face.” Your ideas are going to need to change. You are going to get punched in the face as you compete. When you do, you need to notice what’s working and what’s not working. If you and your people use your initiative and imagination, you can come up with new ideas. You find a way to win in a rapidly changing environment.
Because of the wonderful capabilities technology enables, we have become too enamored with technology. Because we can sometimes produce some pretty staggering results, we fall into the trap that Boyd warned against, putting technology first. The best technology in the hands of a poor salesperson won’t improve their sales results. The best ideas won’t either. People come first.
You have to hire the best people you can find. You have to teach them, train them, coach them, and develop them. And once you have done so, you have to empower and enable them to use their imagination and initiative to make a difference for you and your clients. Your results start and end with people.
What is your most important asset for producing results?
What is that gives you an advantage? What allows you to win?
When you lose, what is the source of that loss?
How do you get better at getting better? How do you get better faster?