Where There’s a Process, There’s a Way

I credit New York Life for teaching me to love selling; I credit Xerox with teaching me how to sell.  One of the most important lessons I learned, in my long association with Xerox, was the value of a process.  We were hired because we had a desire to sell, but once we walked through the training center doors, Xerox took care of the rest with terrific curriculum delivered by amazing trainers.  That training helped me exceed the numbers Xerox expected of me.  I was so blown away by the experience, I became a Xerox sales trainer myself.

Selling became effortless, and what Xerox taught me was ingrained in the way I sold. It also spilled over into the way I approached problem solving and quality improvement. For years, the Xerox “Leadership Through Quality” program was benchmarked by many companies.  I was so blown away by the experience, I begged to be cross-trained, and became a Quality trainer for Xerox as well.

Xerox training was world-renowned and very successful, but one of our biggest challenges came from the pharmaceutical companies.  No, they didn’t sell copiers, but they did something a little unethical.  They would tell potential candidates to get hired by Xerox, get trained, come back, and then they would hire them!  This plot played out over and over again.  I finally began to make my students promise me they wouldn’t leave the company after the training was completed! 

Yes, I had a front row seat at Xerox, working at the third largest training facility in the world, and learning the key to successful training.  Our curriculum was good, our trainers were very good, and our programs were inspirational, but that’s not what made our training successful.  Our success could be traced to one, simple word.  That word is process.

Xerox did not just teach us a basketful of sales tactics; we learned that every move followed a repeatable, predictable process.  The company did not just preach to us that problem-solving and quality improvement were nice things to do.  They provided a repeatable, predictable processes outlining exactly how to apply these skills. Oh, and one more thing.  Mastering, and adhering to these processes was not just encouraged. It was a condition of employment.  That little condition of employment thing applied to management too. 

Xerox maintained its leadership in sales training, and the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement for decades, while other companies became so disillusioned with their failed attempts, they gave up on their training, and bounced to other programs.  They gave up because they were given a handful of ideas, but never a process that allowed them to use and measure these ideas.  Without a process, much of what they did fell into the dreaded “flavor of the month” category, and it was often perceived as a waste of time.  It’s hard enough to ask others to leave his or her area of comfort and try something new, but it’s nearly impossible when there’s a graveyard of programs that are given up on and replaced on a regular basis.

I am a firm believer in processes and I owe Xerox for that.  In fact, I can boil down the heart of this message into one, simple statement:

~ When you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you’re doing… and when you can measure it, you can fix it.~

A successful athlete is typically trained through a process, and measures what he or she does by time or distance.  When I swim, I never swim without a watch or I would just be guessing at the effectiveness of my workout.  As a salesperson, a teacher, or just about any other job that’s worth pursuing, I’m one who believes you are fooling yourself without a process.

Related: Creativity Meets Cross-Selling