Results with Physics:
Apply the Inverse Zeno Effect
difficult economy, the rules of the game change, but often our
actions don’t. We continue to beat the same drums and hope for
different results. We work harder, and yet it feels like we’re
spinning our wheels. This is particularly true for salespeople, who
suffer significant financial and emotional impact if they can’t keep
their numbers up. How can you keep your sales staff engaged,
motivated and productive, even in down times?
it could come as a surprise, a principle derived from experiments in
quantum physics can be applied to this problem. In these
experiments, physicists have discovered that they can slow down
subatomic activity (the Zeno Effect) or speed it up (the Inverse
Zeno Effect) just by measuring it. The way they measure,
what they measure and when they measure determines
whether subatomic processes will be accelerated or impeded. The
measurement system and philosophy in play will have a significant
impact on the outcome.
same is true in the achievement of your business goals. Whether
you’re missing your revenue numbers, your margin is eroding or your
sales conversion rate is off, examining and retooling your
measurement system alone can change or modify your sales results.
By applying the following steps of the Inverse Zeno Affect, you can
modify your existing measurement systems and accelerate your
Change the context:
Measurement in sales is usually associated with judgment. You make
the numbers or you don’t; you’re a success or a failure. As the
numbers skew ever lower, even the most optimistic salesperson will
feel crushed under the weight of his or her own goals, and begin to
apply the Zeno Effect, rather than its inverse. By shifting the
purpose of the measurement system from administering judgment to
creating value, the conversations around the numbers can
change. What can be learned from the measurements you’re taking?
How can you apply this information to create new opportunities?
Changing the context gives you and your team the emotional room to
innovate and try things out.
example, if the entire team is suffering from a dearth in sales, you
might choose to have an offsite brainstorming session in which the
team is encouraged to throw every idea on the table without
judgment. (To lighten up the atmosphere, you might make it clear
that this is not a “retreat” but a “summit.”) More holistically,
the way you talk on a daily basis about the numbers and performance
will make a huge difference. Is your language judgmental or
supportive? Is your tone encouraging or disparaging? Examine the
culture you’ve created around your company’s measurements. Is it
harshly competitive, or does it uplift the team as a whole? Leading
learning exercises around the numbers will teach the sales staff how
to gain wisdom from their own results.
Change the focus:
We have a tendency to focus on the numbers that mean trouble, rather
than the numbers that spell success; a sure formula for applying the
Zeno Effect and impeding results. For example, we look at the
missed goals and the lost sales rather than looking at the sales
that were actually completed. Why were those sales successfully
closed? Were they all in a specific industry? Were the leads all
generated from the same source? Was there more frequent contact
with the client, or less? What are the best practices you can glean
from your own successes and apply to create different results? Focus
on what you want and how to re-create it, rather than creating what
you don’t want. What gets attention gets action.
Pick the right measures:
measurements directive enough? If orders from existing clients are
declining, measuring overall sales in a given period won’t help,
whereas measuring the number of sales to new prospects will. Are
your measurements selective enough? Are you looking at a top line
that’s so amorphous that you can’t pick out the problems? If sales
are declining, there are many variables that could be responsible.
Are your measurements designed to ferret out client attrition,
margin erosion, lead conversion, and order frequency, for example?
The right measurements can pinpoint the issues, provide guidance in
developing a strategic response, and apply the Inverse Zeno Effect
to get results faster.
Choose 3-5 key metrics:
salespeople have scorecards with 20 or more measurements against
which their performance is pegged. With so many “priorities,” it
makes sense that the efforts of such a salesperson would be diffused
as to perhaps become ineffectual. By choosing the top 3-5 key
metrics – that is, the top 3-5 measurements that have been
proven to drive results – you will put the attention in your
organization where it belongs, rather than creating Multitasking
Attention Deficit Disorder in the ranks.
Look forward, not back:
businesses are hamstrung by the fact that they’re always looking at
last month’s numbers. Did we make budget or didn’t we? Reviewing
the past has limited value. If the look back is on a short enough
timeline, a business may not even see the valuable trend data there
that would inform the future. Instead, encourage salespeople to
plan future growth in their businesses in different areas by
specific amounts in given periods, using information gained from the
changes you’ve made in the way you apply your measurement system.
Working those plans will return greater results, because by making
this shift in focus, you will have inspired your staff with a vision
of a better tomorrow. Just like the physicists who learned that by
measuring along the path where they thought a subatomic particle
might show up they were able to entice it there faster, so, too, can
your forays into the future apply the Inverse Zeno Effect and help
create the outcomes you want.
Lastly, lead this change in your measurement system as if you mean
it. Changing it isn’t enough to apply the Inverse Zeno Effect. The
context, the focus and the measurements have to be concrete and
consistent. Your employees won’t buy into it if you don’t. If
you’re the member of an executive group, make sure that your peers
understand the importance of the initiative and ask them to back it
up fully. Challenge system limitations that don’t allow you to get
to the measurements you need to create success.
take a couple of periods for the Inverse Zeno Effect to completely
kick in, but when it does, both you and your sales staff will be
happier with the results.
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