By Renee Joseph
Global Vice President
Customer and Sales Enablement
Johnson Controls

Driving revenue and succeeding amidst accelerating cycles and escalating competition can be a challenge. In this article, I will be sharing what I call the four keys to “navigating” during uncertain times. These are based off of lessons learned and practical techniques gained over my 20+ years in the commercial and industrial arena.

The first key is to implement and institutionalize pre-mortems. Most of us are familiar with and have conducted post-mortems; basically looking at a situation or project to understand what went wrong. This typically results in improved processes and/or corrective actions. A very helpful tool however, especially in turbulent times, is a pre-mortem. A pre-mortem is a managerial strategy by which a team hypothesizes about what could go wrong, working backward to determine what actions could be put in place if the hypothesize materializes. This is a very powerful tool to use in times of uncertainly and as it pertains to forecasting revenue, changing customer dynamics, accelerated sales cycles or competitive pressures.

The second key is to be hyper focused on critical customers. For most organizations, their top 25-30% of customers represents 75-80% of their revenue. From a practical standpoint I would recommend these three steps in support of this key:  First, segment your customers into Key, Target, Manage and Maintain in order to determine which customers get the most time and attention, and establish a robust account plan (ideally in a CRM tool) for Key and Target Accounts. The account plan should include a) what your customer’s goals are b) what strategies you are going to put in place to support your customer’s goals and c) what actions you are putting in place to support the strategies. Experience shows that if we help a customer achieve their goals, then our revenue will follow. Step two would be to put in place the critical programs your customer needs from you to grow; examples would be digital ordering, marketing programs, etc. Step three should include implementing robust sales management practices including strategic account (STAR) reviews which include a focused meeting including senior leadership from your company and the account to review progress against the account plan.

Key number three, value your team above all. Our people are our biggest asset. Many companies and leaders say this; however, not all walk the talk.  Now more than ever valuing your team is vital to your success especially in light of the talent war that is taking place given the extremely low unemployment rate. The three steps I would recommend to make sure that your team knows they are valued are: 1) Weekly 30 minute 1 to 1’s focused on critical initiatives including risks and issues needing your attention 2) Showing compassion. People appreciate knowing you as a leader care. Listening, responding with empathy and being flexible when situations warrant can really cement a relationship and aid in building a high performing team. I view this part of my job to be THE most important. My primary role is to help my team succeed. 3) Implement systems and processes that support your team’s performance. Here I am talking about things such as collaborative workspaces, virtual tools especially when teams work remote and/or you are leading global efforts and specific training when needed.

The final key to navigating during challenging/uncertain times is to hone your leadership skills. When it comes to honing your leadership skills, I strongly recommend the following three areas of focus: 1) Inspire others to follow you; instill trust, compassion, stability and hope by being very clear and consistent in your communications. 2) Set a good example by focusing on emotional intelligence. When the going gets tough everyone will look up to you to see how you react to the situation. Whether verbal or nonverbal, remember your team and organization is watching you. Control your emotions; stay calm under pressure and keep the motivation level up. Remember, emotions are contagious. If you’re freaking out or snow balling a catastrophe, so will your team and 3) Take care of yourself – the importance of taking care of yourself cannot be underestimated especially during uncertain times. Invest in your own R &D. Companies typically invest 3-11% of their revenue in R & D. How much do you invest? Budget a percentage of your income to improve or take care of yourself. Consider things such as fitness programs, seminars and courses, learning a new skill, developing a new hobby, speed reading, or learning a foreign language, etc.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this quote by WWII Admiral William Frederick Halsey, “There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet. ” We are those ordinary people, who, if focused and leading with purpose, can rise to the challenges and succeed during these uncertain and turbulent times.

Renee Joseph is responsible for driving channel growth across the Johnson Controls Buildings and Technology ~$12 B product portfolio. This includes developing and executing the global investments roadmap required to build channel sales capabilities, create an ease of doing business experience and cultivate customer loyalty.

Her distinguished 20+ year career includes introducing and executing strategies to drive growth within competitive markets with an emphasis on delivering strong revenues and profits, identifying business opportunities, executing account management, and positioning start-up and existing businesses for sustainable global growth.

Renee possesses a deep knowledge of customer and sales enablement principles and is known for her customer perspective and ability to translate customer needs into value propositions. This allows her to optimally guide product development, design and positioning. Her strong innovation, transformation, and growth leadership abilities have led to proven success in developing and implementing best practices that increase customer satisfaction, reduce operating expenses and improve quality, resulting in overall market share growth.