The Difference Between Good and Exceptional Performers

What are your team’s internal drivers?

Summary
Transcript

Lisa McLeod, author of Leading with Noble Purpose, shares a real-world example of what made one saleswoman exceptional in her work.

“If you've ever been in sales, you know that it's pretty easy to separate the good performers from the poor performers,” says Lisa. “There are some really clear behavioral things: They make more sales calls, they know their product, they get out of bed in the morning and do what they're supposed to. But what's harder to put your finger on is the difference between the good performers and the exceptional performers.”

Watch the video to learn from Lisa about what makes an exceptional performer.

So, for a long time… I've been in business since I was in my early 20s and my background is in sales, and for a long time I almost felt like I had two competing interests in my life. One was this really assertive, sometimes downright aggressive, capitalist businessperson, and the other was this nurturing spirit that wanted to make a difference in people's lives. And it's only been in the last 10 years that those two things finally came together.

I really got the most clear glimpse of this when I did a study for a client of mine. So, we had this big biotech company and they asked us to do an assessment of their sales force. What they were trying to figure out was, "What differentiated the top tier performers?"

If you've ever been in sales, you know that it's pretty easy to separate the good performers from the poor performers. There are some really clear behavioral things. They make more sales calls, they know their product, they get out of bed in the morning and do what they're supposed to. But what's harder to put your finger on is the difference between the good performers and the exceptional performers.

This client asked us to study their people, and it was super interesting. This was a medical company, so we did this as a double-blind study. So, my team and I went out in the field and we didn't know who was who. We knew we were with some exceptional performers and some good performers, but we didn't know who was who. We just knew we weren't with any poor performers.

And near the end of the study, I was with one particular salesperson and I asked her a question that was not on our list of questions and that I hadn't asked anybody else before. I said, "What do you think about when you go on sales calls?" And I'll never forget her answer.

She said, "I always think about this one particular patient," And she described a grandmother who had come up to her one day, asked her if she was the rep for that drug, and said to her, "I just want to thank you. I want to thank you for giving me my life back." The grandmother said, "Prior to taking this I couldn't go anywhere and do anything. Now I get on a plane and go visit my grandkids."

As this salesperson is telling me this, she's getting really emotional. And I found myself getting really emotional listening to her. And she said, "That's my purpose." Now, you have to keep in mind this was eight or nine years ago before people were really talking about purpose the way they are now.

As I went back, I went back to all the interviews that we had done and I thought, "Is this thing, this purpose, this internal driver, is that the magic thing we've all been looking for that actually drives top performers?"

I went back through all of the interviews and I looked for it and I found it. I found five people who alluded to that sense of purpose. At the end of the study, the company said, "Who do you think our top performers are?" and I said, "I think it's these five." And I was 100 percent right.

That one representative who had spoken in such emotional terms about that one patient, she was the No. 1 rep for three years in a row.

And so, to me that started me on a journey, and I went on to study this across a multitude of organizations all over the world. The data is really clear, but I'll tell you this. It only proves what we already knew in our hearts to be true, which is that feeling, that internal driver, that knowing that what you're doing makes a difference to someone—that is the difference between average performance and exceptional performance.

That for me was the first time that those two parts of my lives, that super assertive, capitalist businessperson and that loving kind nurturing person, finally came together in a really clear way.

So, the key thing that people need to know is profit and purpose are not two separate things. They are linked. People want to make money and they want to make a difference. The more as a leader you can illustrate how people make a difference, the more emotionally engaged they will be, and they will just feed off of each other.
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Lisa McLeod

Lisa McLeod began her career at Procter & Gamble, where she was a sales leader, sales managers, and sales training. She went on to become the Vice-President of Vital Learning --an international training company - before founded he...

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