The Greatest Statement on Business Strategy That I’ve Ever Heard

By Michael Perla on Oct 7, 2012

1 Minute Estimated Read Time

I’ve always been a fan of Ockham’s razor, which is a principle ascribed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. In a colloquial sense, the principle states that

When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.

To use a sales example, if ten things predict a win vs. a loss, the same as a subset of five, focus on the five. It is also related to the law of parsimony (some say it’s synonymous), which states that the simplest of two competing theories is preferable.

Both of these principles relate to what I think is the greatest statement on business strategy that I’ve ever heard. It was said by one of the billionaire co-founders of the SAS Institute, the largest privately held software company in the world and one of the most envied. John Sall said:

“Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. Do what they tell you." 

Some will say that customers don’t really know what they want and you have to show them and extend their thinking. This may be true in part, but many customers that are ahead-of-the-curve and innovators are actually in-front of the market. To qualify Sall’s statement, you should probably listen to a segment of your customers and employees.

In terms of your employees, and sellers in particular, the insights that can be gained from really listening to their in-the-field experiences with prospects and customers is priceless. Engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave. Numerous studies have shown that the strongest drivers of engagement are when employees feel involved in decision-making, are able to voice ideas, and are listened to by managers. 

When all is said and done, Sall’s statement is extremely powerful from a number of standpoints. It drives more Voice of the Customer and Employee conversations, better employee engagement, and it keeps the balance of outside-in (customer) and inside-out (employee) perspectives. Lastly, empathic listening is the number one recurring theme we’ve heard in our Top Performer interviews.

It literally pays to be a good listener.

Michael Perla

Written by Michael Perla

Michael Perla is a contributing writer to Symmetrics Group's blog and co-author of the book "7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation." Michael specializes in providing actionable insights to marketing and sales organizations to help them increase pipelines, win ratios and productivity. In addition to working as a sales performance consultant, Michael has worked as a sales overlay, head of sales operations, and head of strategic marketing planning. Michael currently serves as a Director of Business Value Services at Salesforce.

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