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High performance is not just a focus for this month, this quarter, or this year. It’s a mindset, a set of principles and values that focuses on driving the highest levels of performance year after year.
High performance is not just a focus for this month, this quarter, or this year. It’s a mindset, a set of principles and values that focuses on driving the highest levels of performance year after year.

What does it mean to be a high-performance business?

How do you define success? DAVID BROCK explains the characteristics that define high-performance businesses.

I suspect it’s trite to say that every business owner and manager wants to create a high-performance organisation.

A similar observation can be made about employees – they want to be a part of high-performance businesses. But what does it mean to be a high-performing business?

In selling, is high performance merely ‘hitting our numbers’? Is it about our personal success?

While those are aspects of performance, when we assess the data, research shows us that most individuals and businesses are failing at this objective.

Despite all the investments made in tools, technology, and training, despite our leveraging all the fashions and miracle cures we see in social media, despite the relentless focus on activities, volume, and velocity, despite the attitude, until recently, of growth regardless of cost, most businesses are failing at this.

We all know the data plummeting win rates, quota attainment, tenure, engagement, declining retention, and more.

Many businesses will claim to be hitting their goals – and they may be; however, they are underperforming their potential.

I’ve referenced the organisation that was successfully scaling year after year, hitting their numbers. But when I looked at win rates, they were 17 per cent, and win rates for $1 million+ deals were 9 per cent.

Hitting our numbers is not necessarily an indicator of being a high-performance organisation. So, what elements and factors should we be considering?

While some things may be necessary, they are not critical indicators of consistently high-performing organisations. Some of these include:

"In recent years, our strategies focusing on efficiency, volume, and velocity have been claimed by many to be the ‘secret to success.’ But they aren’t succeeding!"

Hot products and hot markets: While these drive short-term growth, they don’t alone drive sustained high performance.

Markets change, and better or different products inevitably emerge. Just look at the corporate graveyards composed of companies that, for a moment, had the hottest product in the market.

Many of the consistently highest-performing companies sell products or services that are highly commoditised.

In recent years, our strategies focusing on efficiency, volume, and velocity have been claimed by many to be the ‘secret to success.’ But they aren’t succeeding!

To produce the same results we have made in the past, we must multiply the activity levels required to deliver those results.

I had always thought scaling referred to the outcomes created, not the efforts to maintain a certain performance level.

Technology is supposedly coming to the rescue. We’ve seen skyrocketing tech stacks, with companies continuing to boast, “Mine is bigger than yours!” However, we don’t see performance increasing in proportion to the promise of those tech investments.

Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big thing. We can do even more in less time and provide greater insight. The technology is immature. It does have a great deal to offer; however, the focus is on volume and velocity.

I've been there, done that, and struggled to see where it has consistently driven higher performance levels. Ironically, a multibillion-dollar organisation that has consistently had the highest growth, profitability, and performance for at least ten years just invested in its first customer relationship management system four years ago.

Other investments are made in all aspects of content, marketing programs, training, and other things, all intended to drive performance.

Don’t get me wrong. All these things are essential and contribute to driving and sustaining high performance. But there must be something more, something that we are missing that is critical to consistently driving high performance.

Over the past year, I’ve been studying companies that have existed and have been strong performers for more than 100 years. Some have survived for close to 1,000 years.

I’ve been trying to understand what drives their success over such long periods of time.

When you think about this, you know it can’t be hot products. Products they brought to the market 100 years or more have been displaced many times over.

It can’t be a specific leader or founder. It can’t be a hot market because every market changes over that period.

So, what are some of the elements that have driven consistent high performance over the decades? As I’ve studied these, a few consistent themes emerge:

Culture, values, and purpose: These factors drive everything the customer does. They are who the company is and what it stands for – for its people, customers, markets, and communities.

It’s essential to recognise that these aren’t stagnant things. Culture, values, and purpose will evolve and shift over time; however, the commitment to these as the ‘North Star’ driving everything the organisation does is critical to sustaining its performance.

Strong leadership and vision: A clear long-term vision is critical to navigating the changes, disruptions, and challenges that emerge over time.

This vision is grounded in culture, value, and purpose; however, the leadership translates that into what the companies do and how they improve, adapt, and change.

Strong leaders come to the role with a mindset around ‘built to last.’ Sadly, many leaders have the mindset of ‘built to exit,’ with the idea of moving onto something new in a few years.

These would only be sufficient with high levels of employee engagement. Stated differently, these organisations create environments where people thrive.

Not just their employees but also their customers, partners, and communities. Business is about people engaging people in meaningful, high-impact ways. It’s about constantly creating meaning and engagement in each interaction.

Quality and consistency: These organisations maintain the highest standards in everything they do.

Too often, we think of quality as a product/offering attribute; however, it’s the quality of the experience everyone with which the organisation engages.

And it’s the consistency of delivering those high-quality experiences year after year.

Adaptability, experimentation, and innovation: These organisations consistently outperform others by constantly adapting everything they do and by constantly innovating.

It’s not just in products and offerings but in who they are, what they do, and the experiences they create. They experiment in everything they do and the offerings they make. They are driven to be constantly and consistently relevant.

They recognise embracing change as critical to their sustained success and performance.

Financial prudence and stability: These organisations are playing a long game. They recognise they will face market, economic, and other disruptions and have implemented risk management strategies to help navigate these uncertainties.

High performance is not just a focus for this month, this quarter, or this year. It’s a mindset, a set of principles and values that focuses on driving the highest levels of performance year after year.

Too many seem to have lost sight of this–both leaders and individual contributors. As a result, organisationally and individually, we don’t achieve what we can; we don’t seek to understand what’s possible.

One final point

Everything I read about sales productivity seems to be focused on ‘doing more’. I see all sorts of insights, sage advice, and technology that help improve our productivity and efficiency.

These offer the potential of freeing up time; however, it is interesting to see how we fill the time we theoretically gain.

We fill the time doing ‘more of the same’ than doing other things that may be neglected or for which we do not have enough time.

As much as I hated customer relationship management tools, they’ve freed up time for me to spend with customers and prospects. Other tools have also freed up time for me to learn about my customers and how I could help them.

Some tools allow you to take on collateral responsibilities to further professional development.

Somehow, we use the time saved by all these tools to do more of what we use these tools to do. We’ve lost the idea of creating more time so we can allocate it to focus on another part of our jobs.

I find this confusing. As we do more and more of the same things and seek to maximise our productivity and efficiency, those things produce less and less. How are we becoming more productive?

What if we started looking at things differently? What if we leveraged the productivity and efficiency gains these tools create to spend more time working one-on-one with our customers?

We could take that time to develop new skills to engage our customers in more value-based discussions.

That time could be used to experiment with new strategies, particularly since the more we do, the less we seem to produce.



David Brock

Contributor • Partners In Excellence

David Brock is CEO of Partners In Excellence, a global consultancy focused on helping organisations engage customers more effectively. He writes at:

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