As we all know, the sales industry can be a tough place. As month end approaches and you’re way off your targets it’s only natural that you feel stressed and nervous. However, you’re not alone, and in times of trouble it can be important to turn to family. Not the one you balance your working life around, but your colleagues. Here at Inward Revenue we try to think of ourselves as being a family – sometimes dysfunctional, but always united and supportive. But could sales teams learn lessons from another type of family altogether – The Corleone’s from Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’?
1. The importance of having a united brand. When you originally founded your organisation you would have been confident enough in your own ability to secure new business and to keep your clients happy. However, as the company expands can you be sure your new employees are as effective as you are at your role? The chain is only as strong
as its weakest link and having one rogue employee undermining your company brand can have a seriously detrimental effect on its overall strength. Don Vito is also well aware of this and when he sees his eldest son, Sonny speak out of turn and against his wishes at a business meeting in the first film, he recognises that his brand has been undermined. Make sure all staff understand your company brand, and behave accordingly when interacting with clients, candidates and customers. Even something as simple as writing down your values and making sure employees are aware of them can be an effective strategy.
2. You need good negotiators. This one almost goes without saying, all sales professionals need to be talented at securing the best deal for both themselves and their employer. There are numerous examples of effective negotiation in Coppola’s series, not least when Michael visits Moe Greene to discuss buying into the Las Vegas gambling trade. While Greene works himself into a frenzy, Corleone remains calm and allows his rival to tire himself out before making his points clearly and concisely. While it’s unlikely (I hope) that many business meetings will get as heated as this encounter, the scene does highlight the importance of not letting emotion come into a negotiation.
3. Develop the future. Vito Corleone is quoted as saying “the only wealth in this world is children” and he has a point. Your employees are everything to the business and without effective development programmes in place; the firm probably won’t have a particularly bright future ahead of it. However, the real value comes when your employees are ready to fly the nest and expand the company. Just as Vito trusted Michael with running the family firm, we’ve recently opened a new office in London that’s headed up by two of our graduate employees, one of whom is now a director. By concentrating on developing talent you’re putting the foundations in place for future growth and that can only be a good thing.
4. Be able to build effective networks – Having a tried and tested network of suppliers and fellow businesses to call upon when needed can be extremely useful, as shown when Michael Corleone is able to retreat to the Sicily branch of the family after killing rival gangster, Sollozzo and the crooked cop, McLuskey. Even if you don’t necessarily need to call in the favour immediately, it can be extremely effective to develop a network of firms and contacts that you can rely on when needed. As Don Corleone says to one of the people he’s done a favour for, “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service to me.”
5. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”. It may sound counter-productive but paying close attention to the work of your rivals can be a good way of staying ahead of the curve and getting a competitive advantage. It’s likely by doing this you’ll gain one of two things, an indication of a looming threat, or greater knowledge about their work. Just look how Michael Corleone outlined to his underling Pentangeli just how important it can be to stay aware of your rivals’ activities in an iconic scene in ‘The Godfather Part II. And, ultimately, keeping close to the veteran gangster, Hyman Roth allowed Michael to forestall the conspiracy to kill him and take his empire.
What other lessons do you think sales firms can learn from the Corleone family?