Why Sales Leaders Leave “Borg Cultures”

By Mark Roberts

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

In the popular Sci-Fi series, Star Trek one of their most formidable adversaries was “The Borg.” The Borg was a race of Cyborg half human half machine organisms that shared a group consciousness.

They would assimilate new cultures and quickly add them to “the collective,” which is “Sci-Fi speak” for “group think.”

Resistance is Futile

If your current culture demands new leaders be quickly “assimilated” and their “resistance is futile,” you will wake up one day with declining sales and profits and the overall value of your business spiraling into the dark abyss of a black hole. Why?

If you watch some of the older Star Trek episodes as I do, you will be amazed at the vision the writers had in the 1960s with products like;

  • Doors that open automatically when you approach
  • Handheld devices you can communicate with
  • A handheld smart device that can scan, pull data and communicate with other devices.
  • Voice-activated elevators
  • Handheld devices that could monitor body functions like heart rate and blood pressure

The team of writers for Star Trek would boldly go where no one has gone before.

They not only challenged us with innovative new technologies, but they also frequently addressed social issues and challenged myths that became beliefs over time.

If we time warp into the episodes today, I believe they have lessons for business leaders in what we learned from the Borg.

The Borg

If you are not a Sci-Fi fan, I need to bring you up to warp speed. The Borg was basically a race of Cyborgs that were an accumulation of assimilated races.

They would attack a civilization, gather its technology, then assimilate its people into the group think, the collective called the Borg.

When you started your company or joined your company, you were a free thinker if you are now in a senior leadership role, you made good decisions based on current information that resulted in profitable business growth.

However, one of the downsides of doing that climb up the corporate ladder is you may distance yourself from the very source of current market data that helped you make great strategies.

At one point, you knew what your buyers would say before they said it. You could walk into a buyer’s office and share the problems you solved, and they resonated with buyers because they immediately felt you knew them.

However, something happens as we get promoted, and meetings with buyers and listening to their problems are replaced with meeting with bankers and Insurance companies wanting to raise the hospitalization rates by 300%.

Sales and Profit Decline

You now have a “team,” and you have meetings (probably way more than you want or need), and your team has problems they bring to you.

You have meetings with large vendor partners who are trying to increase your prices.

You are asked as a leader in your community to participate in community projects, and you may sit on a few local boards. You get so busy running your business that you stop working on your business. Ironically, your gift at one time and often your understanding of the markets you serve become dated and filtered.

Then you start seeing something you never expected: a sales and profit decline. It hit you like a photon torpedo blast that came out of nowhere.

Sometimes it’s a gradual decrease over many months. Sometimes it’s a shift that quickly occurs, and you see a major drop in sales and profits.

Now the board wants to spend a great deal of “quality” time with you, and this becomes more and more uncomfortable the longer the performance of the business suffers.

What some companies do in this situation is hire someone with a history of traveling this space and crossing this chasm time and time again.

I have been hired many times to help companies and their leadership teams boldly go where they have never gone before.

Just like the CEO who often has unique skill sets in accounting and finance, I bring the ability to quickly tune your business into what your buyers want and must have today, map the buying journey, and often identify some processes and procedures that must be changed internally to get the ship back on course, quickly!

The only time the process I use has not worked in 30 years is when I unknowingly climbed aboard a ship with a Borg Company Culture.

Tough Questions

I find myself needing to ask you a few tough questions, and you need to be honest (it’s just you and I now, no one is listening or judging):

  • Do you demand new employees who bring unique skills and experience to assimilate quickly into “the way we do things around here”?
  • Do you secretly want a team of mindless followers waiting for and then executing your orders without question or challenge?

If so, stop reading now; your ship will run out of fuel soon and crash into an uninhabitable planet.

Before the crash, all your best and brightest will use escape pods against competitors who value their experience.

I have tried to help far too many business owners and leaders who wanted and needed sales and profit increases but who also shared comments like:

“Yes, John is my best salesman, but he drives me nuts. He can never just do what I tell him to do. He always seems to challenge something, always tries to make me feel stupid; why can’t he just toe the line….”

“Every time I ask Barb to do something, she challenges me, challenges my authority, and I am getting sick of it.”

“Why can’t Rick just march in step with the rest of the sales? Why does he keep trying to change or challenge the way we have done things for years?”

“Mark is so different from everyone else in our culture, and it creates disruptions…he needs to adapt to our culture…or else.”

If you or any member of your team has said anything similar to the above comments directed toward new employees who have consistently been top performers in every other organization they have served, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you have a “Borg Company Culture.”

Are You Still with Me?

Most leaders I work with are unaware their once vibrant, profitable business, led by leaders who had meaningful discussions that drove growth, has been infiltrated by a Borg Company Culture – until you lose your warp engines and find the business just drifting in your space and board members waiting for you in your ready room.

If you agree, some or all of the above comments can be heard in those “pre-meetings” before staff meetings, and if you do not change, you will quickly lose most of your top innovative, creative sales leaders. Why?

Sales leaders (any true leader in your organization) can not function well in a “Borg Company Culture,” so one day, they just leave.

What just happened? I brought in this guy; he had a history of successfully getting teams back on course but failed to do so here…why?

It’s Not the Under Performers Who Plan to Leave

In a recent survey on Linkedin, over 60% of employees surveyed said they plan to look for new employers this year. In a previous post, I shared how a sales force sinkhole is brewing under most organizations today.

The quickest way to negatively impact your business’s bottom line is to lose your market-connected sales leaders.

You know, the guys and gals who know how to make it happen even in an environment of “how we do things around here.”

Again I feel compelled to ask you to do some soul-searching before you answer that question. Sales leaders today have learned to be servants to their markets and customers.

They will always quickly report when something you are doing or not doing is negatively impacting the buying decision and buyers’ journey. Are you sure you want to know?

Before You Answer, You Need to Know…

  • Sales leaders will feel like Heretics and challenge your sacred cows.
  • Your other leaders who have been assimilated and act as mindless drones waiting for your next command will see them as a disruption and may politically rally together to remove the sales leader from the team as they see them as a threat.
  • How well does your team accept views contrary to collective thought?
  • How well do you accept views contrary to your own ( that may be dated or jaded by your experience)?
  • Is your business about driving increases in shareholder value, or does it need to meet some personal needs you have?
  • Some of your current team members may not have the capability to adapt to the needs of your market today, and they must go. Are you ready for that?

Be Honest

All are tough questions, I realize, but you need to be honest with yourself. If I were your coach, I would ask you hard questions like this.

After conducting 360-degree evaluations with your team and spending time with your customers, I would already know the answers.

At this point, I am curious to see if you know the current true answers or if you are trusting old data.

Sales leaders add a tremendous amount of sales velocity because they are connected to serving your market and buyers the way they must be served today.

However, they can not work in “Borg Company Cultures,” where resistance is futile.

It’s okay to admit you personally enjoy and often need to feel like the smartest person in the room.

Once you admit this, with some coaching, we can refocus your definition of a personal win based on how the business is performing to key indicators because that is how your owners, investors, PE partners, and VC partners are judging you.

Once we get you to this point, you will gladly welcome any leader who can show you a quicker path to profits based on how buyers are buying today.

One Last Word of Warning

True sales leaders will uncover all those “Politically Incorrect Secrets” the drones on your team have learned to ignore or, worse, bury deep in the processes and procedures.

The new sales leader will openly identify disconnected processes and procedures that do not serve your customers and openly share outdated tools that prevent them from winning in the market today, and some of them may have been the baby that you personally birthed ten years ago.

I am sure ten years ago, it was the best solution based on the parameters you were given to work within then, but it no longer empowers your team to serve buyers today.

You are now a leader based on making more good decisions than bad over the years. Sometimes, even the best leaders forget how it was being so connected to the pulse of their market and the decisions they made that rocketed their careers.

Time once spent belly-to-belly with buyers and listening to their problems has now morphed into meeting after meeting with other leaders who are not face-to-face with customers, and that’s where the disconnect starts, and Borg Company Culture begins.

The good news is an experienced sales leader will reconnect you and keep you connected if you let them.

Strategic Corrections

The markets we serve today are dynamic and difficult and the last thing you need is a Borg Company Culture chasing away your sales leaders and future sales leaders.

With a few strategic course corrections, you can quickly be back on track to boldly go where your company has not gone before.

Do You Know of Any Borg Cultures?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts
Mark is a recognized leader in transforming market problems into profitable product solutions, an Author, Motivational Speaker and Consultant, and has led sales and marketing teams to realize explosive sales growth for the past 30 years. In his popular blog; www.nosmokeandmorrors.com, Mark shares sales and marketing insights to help companies experience explosive sales and profit growth.
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