June 18, 2010

Top Producers

This last week, Monique and I were fortunate enough to join my co-workers and their spouses for an amazing vacation at the Kahala Resort on Oahu. My employer has been hosting a “top producers” club trip the last few years for the top sales reps and this year they opened it up to take two guys from the Engineering side of the house. I was probably more shocked and excited than anyone that I made the trip!

When I had my performance review a while back, James asked me how it went... I txt him my honest reply “i didn’t get fired” and I have had that approach to my own review recently. I guess burning the candle at both ends has some advantages but more importantly “time” spent working is not the primary indicator of getting to the top…That got me thinking. I don’t feel like I am a top producer but here I had a chance to take some notes on just what these top producers do to land a trip in paradise. Don’t get me wrong, I was humbled to go and I maybe on the receiving end of some top producers charity more than anything so I have no place to boast….My work is not something I often blog about and in fact I usually try to stick to race reports or trail time but there is just as much learning and cross over in my work life. It’s time for me to start taking notes and learning lessons on all fronts. Now I am seeing real balance!

Without question every individual had displayed these qualities below not only during our normal working days but also during our trip together. Of course, there are things like teamwork, work ethic, going the extra mile, having fun, discarding excuses, and a huge list that go on and on and are vital to one success. This is by no means an exhaustive list but just some key things that really hit home with me because they were personal, common among every person on the trip and I saw them acted upon not only on a daily basis but before my eyes during the trip. Enter my warped paradigm perception of sport, dreaming and work flow efficiency infatuation . . . or just some of the things I was chewing on while I was laying on the sand.


Departure state does not matter – Before I started looking at the similarities between our group, I was overwhelmed by the diversity of our team. While some people may have been groomed into successful traits others must have been digging under rocks to find the focus to get anything done. In many ways, I believe this plays an advantage to our success as a team. The key was that each person knew what it was that motivated them to focus on the arrival more than the baggage behind. I could slice and dice this in so many ways but we had a huge variation in the makeup of the group and it just proved to me that it does not matter where you flew in from as long as you are working on where you are going. Paradise, by the way, is a good destination.

DO WORK” – I know this sounds like cranking out some major training miles or slamming the hammer down at a race but the cross over for the specific work ethic is so intriguingly similar to me that it is what started me collecting thoughts about this post. How do these people land bigger deals, generate more revenue and simply more work output with the same resources and time? Is this work measured any different than the black and while kilojules of power output measured on a power meter? Trip merit was all based on number. Rate of perceived effort (or worthiness for that matter) was not going to get you on the trip. These top producers do not spend time on excuses. They take what they have, set sights on where they want to go and get to work. The difference with this sales team and sport was that these individuals never considered themselves talented or that they had a genetic advantage to perform. They understand that it is the act of doing the work, at all levels, over and over again that builds the skills, focus and experience needed to fuel the flight as you correct course along the way to success. Work is the process. The process is work. Correcting course to work more intelligently along the way is the difference between good and great. It is a matter of effectiveness over efficiency. Yes, it is nice to have time management and be efficient but it is much better to be effective and have time to spare. After all, in the end, that will allow you to do more work and get to your destination faster.

Partners – Everyone had partner that significantly contributed to the ability of the individuals ability to “do work” and keep it consistent. Your team will catch you when you fall but this partner is more likely not to let you trip to begin with. All of the spouses and partners are either working themselves, raising kids, traveling, etc. (lets be honest we are all busy with our own needs) but one key I found similar to each person was the belief that the partner had in their top performer. This was a call to action belief to support that partner by putting their own energies (spiritually, mentally & physically) ahead of their own needs. Although it may never have been spoken or agreed upon between the couples, the receiving end was just as aware of this as the giving side. An innate trust that allowed them to dream just a little bigger, work a little harder or risk a little more knowing someone was committed to them and the journey good or bad.


Routine – Even the crew of Gilligan’s Island fell into their unique routine after three years on the island. The professors inventions where adjusted from metal gadgets to coconuts but his routine around his creative process continued. This is something that is not unique to this trait. Your habits will follow you wherever you go….even on a deserted island. Routine is consistency, the secret sauce behind big work , so make sure it is working for you and not against you. All of the top producers I watched followed their routine to success on a daily basis. The routines were as different as the individuals themselves but they kept what worked for them, got ride of what didn’t and put it on repeat.

Multi-Sporters – Sometimes runners will swim to cross train and mix it up. Most single sport athletes believe in the value of a good resistance training program to aid in balanced strength and some protection against injury. That is cross training. The top producers I got to witness were more like triathletes. They purposefully set out to become effective at multiple job roles and were just as excited and driven to complete tasks that were not in their job description. This added to the team work, their skill sets, balance and maybe job security but I do not believe this was the primary reason behind their decision to excel at multiple roles. They were not wearing multiple hats just for a season or when things got hectic and they needed to help out the team. That is multitasking. These multi-sporters must have seen a bigger value in the balance of being effective through the entire process because it was all part of the fun. They complete multiple jobs day in and day out because they value the entire development of getting better at the process and the more opportunity they have to exercise their skills in a new environment the better the environment is for them.

Follow up – Sales people are on the phone all the time! It looks that way to me when I am with these folks during the work week but it is just one example of what it takes to close the deal. Did you ever start a story and get interrupted and have someone follow up with you later to ask how the story ends? How did that make you feel? I always see the best athletes who already have a consistent training schedule, getting enough sleep, eating right and have a life balance looking for what can make them better and follow up on every response to their training. They want more and are willing to invest the time to go back and close the loop. Do you search out every detail of your passion to find the “secrets” that most people overlook?

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is just showing up” but if you want to rise above even that 80% over achiever status, following up will get you to the next level. Top performers understand the additional kick from a good follow up. Call it attention to detail, passion to look for more and chase down every lead or good closing skills but following up pays huge dividends.

Charity – giving to someone who cannot repay you. I found this one particularly interesting because of the vast diversity of our group yet everyone gave to someone who would never be able to repay them and did not expect anything back. While the motivations behind the giving are forever unknown and may even at times even be a negative driver (greed, pride, etc) it was a action that all of them displayed as a necessary deed in the character of a top producer. I see this everyday working with these people and saw each individual performing this on the trip. Maybe why I was invited on the trip!?!


In the end, earning a spot on the trip was all about numbers… Thank God that life is not that way! The balance of life will keep focus on things much more interesting than just a number game but when work does need to get done, it is always helpful to have the tools of good habits at your side.

4 comments:

Matt said...

I might put this post on my wall.
I really needed it. Thanks.
Tony Robbins better watch his back.

Toby Guillette said...

Wow, Slater. This was so well put together. I loved it! Glad you were invited on the trip and had the opportunity to reflect on these ideas and appreciate you sharing them with us. PS. Congrats on finishing 2nd amateur overall at the XTERRA East Champs!

Charisa said...

Great post.

sean.clancy said...

Great Post! As a SalesGuy/Endurance athlete this is the stuff I think about every day. Balancing life/work/training is an art and a science.