Achieve Sales Maturity via Emergent Complexity

An examination of the top performing Fortune 500 sales organization will result in the conclusion that “This sales organization has challenges.  It isn’t what it could or should be.”  However, it also is better than 499 other Fortune 500 companies. Does that mean that sales performance has eroded to the point where comparatives of mediocrity rule the day?

Companies do their homework, invest in the best tools and services and know everything there is to know about their performance metrics. How can they possibly be grouped together with organizations that are labeled as being mediocre? One answer is a lack of consistent governance of every entity of their sales organization.

There are 4 key issues that continue to impact seller performance

  1. Sellers are working in isolation and lack adequate guidance and opportunities to collaborate effectively
  2. Sellers are critically stretched by pressures to focus on required non-selling and indirect selling activities
  3. Seller environments are overly complex and over-whelming
  4. Sellers are required to perform at an increasing level in an increasing complex business environment

There can be very simple sales practices and rules for situations, tasks and activities, and based on those rules the sales organization can show very complex and mature behaviors.

A good metaphor is the leaf cutter ant.  On an individual basis an ant is a very simple organism that operates under simple rules.  In fact, all 200 neurons of an ant’s brain can be simulated on a computer resulting in a virtual ant that works like a real ant.

Put that virtual ant into an environment with chemical pheromones like a natural forest environment and suddenly there is an emerging colony that exhibits behavior and intelligence far beyond that of each individual entity.

For example, the leaf cutter ant is the only known insect species that has domesticated another ant species and farms them like cattle.  Leaf cutter ants collect leaves (they don’t consume the leaves), ferment them with an enzyme by chewing the leaves, feed them to aphids and then eat the aphid larva.

The farming is incredibly complex behavior. None of the individuals in the colony have that behavior in them. The ant colony operates as a system to exhibit complex behaviors as the sum. That complex behavior emerges from the collaboration of thousands of activities executing very simple rules. And that’s one of the best ways in nature to organize a decentralized system that results in complex behaviors.

Understanding the natural laws of human behavior and using that to impact sales performance simply requires taking the concept of the decentralized system that has emergent behavior and applying that to a sales organization. Decentralized systems solve one of the main problems of hierarchical systems, which is, when there is a hierarchy that is organized by people within complex institutions the people who rise to the top of the hierarchies often become influenced and co-opted.  They gradually subvert the purpose of the hierarchy system to serve needs that cannot be applied broadly across a highly matrixed environment.

This decentralized approach for developing complex behaviors and sales organization maturity scales if the established rules are consistently applied. With that, the evolution of maturity will continue to deliver the primary goal, which is leveling the field for everyone within the sales organization. More value will be delivered to every entity of the sales organization with more accountability and predictability and less uncertainty and risk.