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Level 2 Leadership
By James A. DeSena, CSP

The Leadership Myth
A title doesn't make someone a leader. Let's take a moment to be clear 
about the difference between management and leadership because it's easy to confuse the two. But the distinction is critical; the results, very different.

Management is doing things right.
Leadership is doing the right things.

Management is being efficient.
Leadership is being effective.

Managers ensure work gets done.
Leaders inspire people to exceed their limits.

And as the pace of change quickens, the need for leadership increases. 
I'll define Level 2 (L2) leadership as leadership that is focused on creating customer value. For any organization to remain viable it must not only 
maintain its traditional sales efforts, it must periodically reexamine the 
factors critical to its future success. Here are four.

L2 Leaders Create Exceptional Value For Their Customers
The benefits and results the customer receives determine value. Value is determined by the customer's perception. So, for example, under promising and over delivering is one way to provide more perceived value. Delivering 
on the promise correctly the first time enhances value. Small, thoughtful acts 
of service provided without additional charge increase value.

One way L2 leaders provide exceptional value is by searching for the little, 
and sometimes, big annoyances that customers tolerate. For example, most 
of us can relate to the inconveniences that we suffer with poorly designed voice mail systems. Closer to home, perhaps your billing system is inconvenient for customers. Is it set up for them or for you? James Miller, in 
his book, "The Corporate Coach," discusses this when he says in his business, the customer is always right. His example is an instructive one. If 
the customer wants an invoice or a bill formatted in a particular way, they should get it that way and it is up to his company to figure out how to do it, 
and not to say "It can't be done." In your business, what are the annoyances that customers encounter? How do you reveal them when you are so close to the business?

Why do customers tolerate annoyances? Sometimes it's because they don't have alternatives, don't know they have alternatives or haven't reached the point where the annoyance has become annoying enough for them to switch.
It's a good idea to keep these two principles in mind when thinking about value: Principle Number One: The longer it takes to receive value, all else equal, the less value is perceived. Principle Number Two: The time customers are willing to wait to get what they want is decreasing at an increasing rate.

L2 Leaders Define the Customer Experience
L2 Leaders don't just let the customer experience happen. They decide what 
it should be and create it. For example, Steve Wojnarowicz, President of the American Automobile Association's East Penn Club, defined the customer experience when his organization opened a new travel store. He said, "We wanted to create a unique atmosphere, different from the typical travel agency. I felt the store should feel like 'fun,' generating excitement and anticipation of a great time when planning a vacation." Marj Zacharda, from the club added, "It's open and airy. We hired a local artist to paint four murals of vacation scenes on the walls. We have a play area in the center for kids." There's also a King Kong display provided by Universal Studios and special Disney desks. How many stores have you been in where your experience was one of frustration at not finding a salesperson, not finding what you wanted or wandering around until you left. How many times have you called a service establishment whose representatives are unprepared or curt? Have you ever had the experience where you know more than the person you are speaking with?

L2 Leaders Create a Successful Sales Environment
Just as it is important to decide what the customer experience should be, it is also vitally important to decide what the sales environment should be. The sales environment is defined by everything the salesperson experiences beginning with the time they are interviewed and hired. This includes the hiring process, coaching, follow-up, support, resources and tools.

An L2 leader wins the commitment of the sales staff. He or she helps people identify their best markets, develop sales skills, develop sales goals. He or she sets up motivating reward systems. He or she helps make the job enjoyable.

An L2 leader is an effective coach. An effective coach prepares people for success; an ineffective coach criticizes people after the fact. The old model for the ineffective coach was OJT (On the Job), sink or swim. The L2 leader coaches in a style that the salesperson prefers. They make sure that salespeople have up-to-date skills.

Have you ever hired the wrong person? You discover it at some point when you don't get the results you expected, or more likely, spend a lot more time managing this person than people who work well. The problem can often be traced back to not taking enough time to find the right person for the job, or not using the right criteria. If I don't take enough time to find the right person for the job, I always find the time to correct their mistakes or find a replacement. Why not do it right in the first place?

L2 Leaders Are Alert for Challenges and Changes
The sales leaders challenge is threefold. 

1) To keep alert for early signs of problems such as less repeat business, loss of customers, loss of salespeople, and to act on those early indications.

2) To keep alert for changes in customer trends, competitor strengths and supplier offerings and to act on those changes.

3) To be a model for change. This means openly and non-defensively evaluating your own operation, skills and results. 

In their quest to be constantly out in front of the competition, L2 leaders tackle three of the most insidious problems that take people from success to failure: They question the status quo, they overcome complacency and they do not accept arrogance within their teams. The status quo has built in assumptions about why things are done a certain way. We often just take for granted that they should continue to be done that way. Clearly, overcoming complacency is important when people get comfortable, when they take for granted the things that made them successful in the first place. Arrogance is an easy trap to fall into anytime people start to think, "That (whatever 'that' is) will never happen to me."

Changing our habits and belief systems aren't easy. But new perspectives are essential to our future success.

(For a quick assessment of your leadership level, go to Sales Leaders Test.
(c)1999, James A. DeSena, CSP Performance Achievement Systems, Inc. all rights reserved. Jim DeSena is a speaker and consultant to industry. Jim specializes in working with sales leaders, providing seminars, speeches and planning retreats. For additional free information, call 800-4321-WIN
                                                         ExpertMagazine.com 2000