This is one of those topics I never thought I would have to write about. It’s a subject I assumed was such common sense and common practice that there was no value I could add by writing about it.
Turns out, I’m probably a little naive. Right now, I’m involved in at least halve a dozen situations where very capable people are failing because they haven’t understood the importance of building and maintaining a support network.
Building and maintaining support systems is critical for everyone—period. But let me focus on business and selling.
The day of the lone wolf, the person that insisted, “Leave me alone, just let me sell,” is long gone (I’m not sure it ever really existed).
The complexity of our customers, our solutions, our businesses mean that we rely on a network of people to help us do our jobs and achieve our goals.
Stated differently, all our jobs are bigger than our ability to do them by ourselves. We simply cannot succeed unless we have a support system.
As sales people we rely on a lot of people to help us to do our jobs. It may be SDRs, product specialists, pre-sales support teams, our teammates, our managers, operations folks, product managers, implementation/delivery teams. It may be people in our partner organizations. And it certainly is a network of people within our target customers.
As managers, we need to build similar networks. It includes our people, our peers, our managers, our managers’ managers, functional leaders in other parts of the organization—sales enablement, marketing, product management, pricing/legal, HR, IT, finance and so forth. Without them and their support, we can’t do our jobs and we are ineffective in helping our people do their jobs.
Whatever our role, today’s businesses are too dynamic and too complex to do it alone, we need help and support.
But what does building a support system mean? It’s a two way street. To get support, we have to be supportable and give support.
Even though it may be someone’s job to help/support you, they won’t do it if you haven’t taken time to build a relationship with them, to understand who they are, what their goals are, how they can most effectively help you and how you can help them.
They don’t know how they can best support you if you haven’t taken the time to let them get to know you, understand what you are trying to achieve and how they can be most helpful/supportive to you.
Building a support system is about earning, building, maintaining trust. It is about being trustworthy and trusting.
The greater the responsibility we take in an organization, whether it is managing a group of very important accounts, or going up the management food chain, we become increasingly dependent on our support system. One observes great leaders building and leveraging their support networks across their company, customers, and industries.
I worry that too many business professionals are becoming too mechanistic in the way they work. Their interactions with others, increasingly, is through their devices, whether it is emails or internal “collaboration” systems, texting, even phone calls.
They lose sight that there is a person, a human being, at the other side of that interaction. They lose sight that they need that person’s support, not just because it may be that person’s job, but that the individual wants to help you and help you achieve success.
In the press of everything we have to do, too often, we take our support systems for granted. As a result, over time we lose support, without even knowing it.
Business, by definition, is about and run by people. Businesses exist to serve people. Because of this, building and maintaining our support systems, being supportable and supporting is critical to our shared success.
I’m embarrassed that I have to write this reminder, but apparently I do. Unfortunately, I am seeing too many individuals and organizations failing because of this one simple thing. As individuals, they are all capable. But the fail, because they don’t recognize that success is no longer based on what we do as individuals but rather by the strength of our support systems and how we nurture and mobilize them to achieve our shared goals.