Photo by Aleksandar Cvetanovic
The world has gotten accustomed to politics leading the headlines every day. However, the political dynamics in a professional environment can play heavily in the success and failure of an organization to reach its goals. Politics defined is the process and behavior in human interactions involving power and authority. It is also a tool to assess the operational capacity and to balance diverse views of interested parties. Politics, often covert and always unsanctioned, leverage ideas, influence and power dynamics to achieve a targeted objective.
Office politics can attack the culture of an organization and corrode it from the inside out. However, having a solid process, written policies and sound marketing and sales alignment centered around a CRM can virtually thwart all attempts, however unintentional they may be, to compromise the institution. Today we'll look at some of those best practices, how to implement them to safeguard against politics.
Politics is the process and behavior in human interactions involving power and authority. Its a tool to assess the operational capacity and to balance diverse views of interested parties.
In diagnosing a marketing/ sales pipeline, I often discover that the real challenge isn't a leaky funnel or generating leads but the "dynamics" in the office place. Maybe there's a very top-down approach and the employees are terrified of management. Perhaps micromanagement is hampering productivity. Does the sales team get preferential treatment? This all creates tension. Not all tension is bad however. In fact, tension among different groups is a positive if its planned for and addressed appropriately. You need a process.
A process is quite simply a series of repeatable actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. A process is particularly important in an organization because the stakeholders in that process can change and its important to on-board new stakeholders in an efficient manner.
About a year and a half ago, we started to designate one day a month, as an organization, to nothing but process. "Batch Days" as they're called (not an original idea, we adapted it from GuavaBox Co-Founder Gray MacKenzie) are dedicated to mapping processes. We identify, discuss, clarify and clearly define each of the steps one takes to achieve a particular end. By documenting it, over time we've built a sustainable strategy suitable for long-term growth.
But we don't just document, we evaluate the current process, ask and answer "why" every decision is made in the process. By discussing it as a team, we often identify inefficiencies and ways to eliminate steps.
Its a full day so its important this be seen more as a monthly retreat than a boring exercise. Not everyone needs to be in on every session, in-fact I would un-invite any C-Suite suits. They'll make everyone uncomfortable. Make it fun. Relax the dress-code, cater lunch, have silly games and contests to keep employees engaged.
When you've completed a process documentation, its a good idea to publish it on a internal website accessible to all those who need to see it, however I would caution against printing. For one, its bad for the environment but paper says permanent. It'll sit on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. Procedures are meant to be reviewed on a regular basis and updated for greater efficiency.
Without a doubt, the first process you should evaluate and map is your customer's journey through your marketing and sales processes. I like to define the marketing process as the creation, management and measurement of the process that converts a stranger to a lead, qualifies them so we can best advise them through the sale. Conversely, the sales process is the repeatable set of steps a sales team takes to move a prospect from a qualified lead to a closed customer. If you don't have this mapped yet, that's ok. Use batch days to create one. It won't be perfect but over time you'll be able to evaluate and tweak as needed. As a baseline, these are the general steps of any sales process that you can use as a boiler plate to get started:
The goal is to make the process enjoyable enough they'll ultimately do it again some day soon. As you can see, marketing and sales isn't the job of one individual but everyone within the organization, whether they're customer-facing or not. Being thoughtful about how everyone interacts with the customer takes careful planning, constant maintenance, and requires teamwork.
Customers won't move through your process if people aren't working together. But how can you expect people to work as a unit if politics are at play? Simple answer, embrace it. Diversity of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, thought is vital to creativity but can create animosity and cliques so you have to have a plan and processes.
After your marketing and sales processes, move on to others like how you greet and orient customers, on-board new hires, create content, develop campaigns, even hire and fire. At first, we only would get through a few processes each Batch Day. However, we have even developed a process for evaluating process which allows us to be more efficient.
In our travels, we've witnessed the most common areas politics exist is at the intersection of marketing and sales. Success in scale is predicated on the synergy between these two vital functions of the organization however both teams often have very different motivations and different expectations of the other. They're like siblings, fighting against each other despite a common enemy.
The rift really exists at its core. Marketing tends to have long-term vision centered around brand building and developing leads. Conversely, the sales division is much more sudden impact focused around meeting sales quotas by any means necessary. For sales, marketing serves little function if it can't help them close the sale immediately. The biggest problem is how each perceives what the other's role should be verses what it is in reality. Here are some common political power struggles:
In most political environments, sales wins out. Executives measure everything in finances like revenue and profit. However not every essential activity is client facing and revenue producing yet still contributes to an organization's success. The solution is to create an service level agreement. (We'll talk more about this in a future blog.) This agreement holds marketing and sales accountable for their activity. It simply states that marketing is responsible for producing output A and sales is responsible for B. For example: marketing must generate a specific number of leads based on mutually agreed upon qualifiers while sales agrees to call them within an agreed upon time after being assigned. This agreement holds everyone accountable and the customer relationship management software (CRM) performs a vital function as the scoreboard. As long as both sides are aligned around this agreement and a common revenue goal, politics are eliminated as factor.
In the headlines, we've come accustomed to terms like alternative facts, fake news and spin. Political agendas control the narrative far more than data. That's why CRM is an essential element of any organization, forming its nucleus as the central or single source of truth (SSoT). Man can be influenced by politics, a CRM only reports data.
However, reporting data is important, its useless in a vacuum. You must define what success looks like to the organization. This might sound simple but buy-in can be very complicated. The important stakeholders at all levels must be on-board as to which key metrics will be used to measure performance. You can't serve the customer if there's isn't a collective vision everyone is working toward.
CRM and processes can only go so far in mitigating politics if stakeholders aren't willing to check their ego. Internal power dynamics aren't a lucrative metric and rarely contribute to the bottom line, however it does take energy to acquire power. This energy can be reallocated toward a common revenue goal. This is perhaps the most challenging variable in politics but solely the responsibility of leadership. Good leaders know how take the temperature of their teams, motivated and focused on collective goal. Here are three tips to leading a political free environment: