Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

Do you ever wonder why some of your clients are transformed by your work and others, meh—not so much? It’s the multi-million dollar question, isn’t it?

I think about it all the time. This post is going to read like my therapy for a minute but I promise I’ll bring it back to how you can have better success in implementing the ideas in my books, podcasts and training programs.

I wonder why, on the one hand, we at Win Without Pitching can work with a firm for two days and then watch as their culture completely transforms over the ensuing months, with the front line team replacing old, needy, vendor-like behavior with new expert advisor behavior; replacing a firm-wide focus on hours, FTEs and staffing plans with a new focus (and pricing) on value creation… and then we can work closely with another firm for over a year or more—training, coaching and consulting across the whole organization—and get only marginal gains. Yeah, they learn the frameworks, they improve their closing ratios and their prices go up, but it’s limited. It’s an evolution instead of a revolution and there is no fundamental change in culture that has people changing their mindsets, letting go of old limiting beliefs, and showing up differently in the sale. The people eventually turn over and things revert to the old ways with only a few small things sticking.

The short answer to the “why” question is that change of any kind is hard. The slightly longer answer is that complex issues like culture change are always multivariate. But some variables are weighted more heavily than others, and among all the variables, one stands out more than others.

Somebody Senior Really Owns This

Last year I told you a story about my last agency job, over 20 years ago, when my boss, the agency owner and president, signed up some co-workers and me for sales training. He made the decision, he paid for it, but he didn’t attend and he didn’t drive the change internally. Fatefully, I was transformed by the training, but my colleagues were not. I left soon after to start Win Without Pitching and I know the training didn’t stick with the team for long. It probably paid for itself but there was no transformation, no revolution. The reason it didn’t stick is that the owner who funded it didn’t have the capacity, ability or interest to drive the change into the organization. In fairness to him, maybe he didn’t view that training as an opportunity for transformation. Most training isn’t. Maybe incremental improvement was all he expected.

I guess we get hired for incremental results too, sometimes, and you do too, I imagine. But I don’t think it’s what either of us want. We want to make a dent in the universe, to quote Steve Jobs. We want to transform others.

So my boss paid for the training but he didn’t take personal responsibility for leveraging the investment to change the culture of the firm. It wasn’t his rock, to use the EOS term for large commitments for the quarter or year. And that was his prerogative. Who knows what his competing priorities were? I’m not judging him.

Fast forward 20 years and this is what I see as the key differentiator that separates incremental, transitory success from sustained cultural change and next-level financial reward: a senior person in the firm makes this type of cultural transformation (moving from vendor mindset to expert; from cost-based thinking to value-based) their sole focus for the quarter and their top priority for the year.

That’s it. I wish there was a magic hack like all the influencers and hustlers promise. If there is one, I don’t know it. Somebody with authority has to really own this. It doesn’t have to be the business owner and it doesn’t have to be the CEO but they have to have the respect of both and the authority to do what’s necessary. They have to have the gravitas that inspires people to follow. They have to coach out of the organization those that won’t. They have to break down the systemic barriers to change. And it has to be their #1 priority for a sustained period of time—the one big thing they get measured on.

Simple, but not easy. Who’s going to own this? Really own it? That’s the answer to the multi-million dollar question. 

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Blair Enns
Blair Enns is the Win Without Pitching founder and CEO and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour.
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