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Ep56 Langley vs. the Wright Brothers: Embracing the Complex Conditions that Lead to Breakthrough Results
Episode 5610th September 2020 • Inside: Sales Enablement • Scott Santucci, Brian Lambert
00:00:00 00:55:26

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Welcome to the Inside: Sales Enablement Podcast Episode 56

The close of the 19th century found Samuel Pierpoint Langley and Orville and Wilbur Wright in a competition to create a powered and controllable flight. Langley worked with a lot of government support and enormous public exposure, while the Wright brothers worked quietly using their own resources.

Langley built a monolithic 54-foot-long flying machine had two 48-foot wings -- one in front and one in back. It was launched from a catapult on the Potomac River in October of 1903 and it fell like a sack of potatoes into the water.

Just nine days later, the Wright brothers flew a trim little biplane, with almost no fanfare, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their advantage? They'd mastered the problem of controlling the movement of their plane by focusing on the environment in which they operated. Windy, uncontrolled, volatile, requiring the plan to harness those conditions.

The results were remarkable, and as they say, the rest is history.

In this episode, we're joined by Amy Benoit. An Orchestrator who is also focused on harnessing the often volatile, uncertain, and complex environment that salespeople operate within. While many (most?) organizations build out their monolithic sales engines with overlays, technology, and management support, Amy focuses on working "light and lean" to get moving and get results.

There's a lesson in this episode for all of us, what do you think?

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Intro 00:02  

Welcome to the inside sales enablement podcast. Where has the profession been? Where is it now? And where is it heading? What does it mean to you, your company, other functions? The market? Find out here. Join the founding father of the sales enablement profession Scott Santucci and Trailblazer Brian Lambert, as they take you behind the scenes of the birth of an industry, the inside sales enablement podcast starts now. 


Scott Santucci 00:34  

I'm Scott Santucci.


Brian Lambert 00:35  

I'm Brian Lambert. We're the sales enablement insiders. Our podcast is for sales enablement leaders looking to elevate their function, expand their sphere of influence, and increase the span of control within their companies


Scott Santucci 00:48  

together, Brian and I've worked in over 100 different kinds of sales enablement, initiatives as analysts, consultants or practitioners, we've learned the hard way. What works and maybe what's most important What doesn't,


Brian Lambert 01:01  

and our focus is on you as a sales enablement leader and orchestrator, as you know, sales enablement, leaders need to really operate in the gap between strategy and execution. And blend those tactics and strategies together to be mission and goal focused. prioritizing the right goals at the right moments, guiding the narrative by confronting reality, to drive results by design and not effort, so that you can unlock energy and create momentum by catalyzing change through collaboration. That's our list of what it takes to be a great orchestrator. And you heard about that on an earlier episode. On this podcast, we're gonna start with a centering story, just like we usually do, and I'm gonna hand it over to Scott and then we'll introduce our guests. Scott, what do you have for us?


Scott Santucci 01:46  

Okay, I love this, this centering story. So if you don't like it, or if people don't like it, so what i love it and you know, it's partially my podcast too. So I'm gonna start out with this. So First of all to give everybody a little bit of hint we're starting. We're starting out our story in the late 1860s. And have you ever heard Brian or Amy have someone named Samuel Pierpont Langley? Samuel Pierpont


Brian Lambert 02:15  

Langley Air Force Base? Yeah.


Scott Santucci 02:17  

So what does that? Tell me more about it. What is Langley sound like?


Brian Lambert 02:24  

The Air Force Base? Yes. There's an Air Force Base named after him.


Scott Santucci 02:28  

That's right. And also there's Langley Virginia where the CIA's headquarters.


Brian Lambert 02:34  

Yeah, that's right.


Scott Santucci 02:35  

So there's a lot actually named after Langley. That's That's because of Samuel Pierpont Langley. And Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley. He his story. We'll get to how this how this matters here in a minute because it's pretty interesting. In the 1860s, he took over the Allegheny observe Observatory in Pittsburgh, they were completely broke. It pretty much didn't have any working materials and by 1868 He'd raised funding together, he'd done a lot of analysis and came up with the Allegheny time system. Around this time as you guys, as everybody knows, the railroad industry is exploding. And one of the things that was really difficult is how do you tell time. So he devised a really hyper accurate timing system that he would use the telegraph to dispatch at the morning and at night, the exact timetables that were used to run all the trains. And that became a profit center for the Allegheny observatory between 1868 and 1883, when the US government took that over and had taxpayers funded, so that's pretty smart. Then he went on to do to keep doing that, that research and then he won the top astrophysics awards in the US and in France in 1886 and 1889, respectively. And here's where the story becomes very interesting. And then we're going to hear hear about some people everybody knows about In 1896, he created the first steam powered glider over the Potomac. He had a steam engine, it was the first sort of unmanned propulsion unit. And the government. He had friends like by this time Alexander Graham Bell took a picture of this you can go find this on the on the internet took a picture of this photo in 1896. Andrew Carnegie was also his friend by this time in 1896. He was the head of the Smithsonian Institute, which a lot of people heard about. And the opportunity of creating manned flight was really a big deal. So he got he raised $70,000. And if this is before 1900, so if you adjust for inflation, that's basically a $2 million Seed Fund, you know, if you will, to get flight. He hired a bunch of teams of other people who are similarly well represented. In what well respected to him, but was he the first person to fly? No, no. the Wright brothers were and In contrast, the Wright brothers are two guys out of Dayton, Ohio. Neither of them have a college education. None of the people worked on it were college education, and they had zero dollars, yet.

They were the first people to fly to create a man play a flat plane and fly it successfully. And one of the kinter interesting things about this and where this pertains heavily to our Stuart's story. What Langley did is do all these flights on the Potomac River, he created a launching device actually like a sort of like a mini aircraft carrier. And the reason he was doing on the in the Potomac is that the the woods and everything around it, he could control the environment as best he could. Whereas the Wright brothers used the design point of having a lot of wind and One of the things that was really important to them is making sure that they could have the gears to adjust and make the flight adapt to the to the weather. And that turned out to be the critical success factor because aerodynamics are so unpredictable that you need to be able to create tools for it. And that's not something that Samuel Langley factored in. So basically, with $2 million, a star studded cast, a guy who's got a incredible success track record behind them, with a lot of great science behind it and great minds, was beaten out by a bunch of guys who were bike mechanics, who really just worked on confronting the complexity and repeating it, repeating it and repeating it. That's our story.


Brian Lambert 06:46  

Great story. I love that. And also just a little tidbit on that that I remember is, the Wright brothers actually figured out how to operate on three axes. And that's why because there's little adjustments you're talking about, not just two up and down. Left and Right, they had to figure out the third axis. And that's what one of the one of the little things that made it work. But that's a great story that I remember I got to ask so. So what what the heck does that have to do with sales enablement?


Scott Santucci 07:15  

So what? Well, here's what we're getting. Here's how it ties together. One of the things that we're talking about is Stratecution. And we've been talking about this concept of Stratecution for some time. And one of the things when we think about strategy is we think about, hey, let's hire in a Bain and McKenzie or people like that to go do the studying. And certainly on a sheet of paper, if we were betting people, most of us if we were forced to bet, we would probably would have bet on Lange Lee's team instead of the Wright brothers team. The issue is what the Wright brothers did, that the Langley team didn't do was lean in on the complexity and Tinker and Tinker and constantly widdle and change And make rapid adjustments in day to day, based on specific observations by leaning into the complexity. And that's really what we're talking about here is that's really the role of orchestration is being able to think strategically. So in other words, have a vision of what you want to do. At this point in time, no one in the world had created manned flight flight apparatus. However, in order to make it work, you have to be on the ground doing the work, and balancing between both of those different points. So that's really what our what our goal is of how do we make this idea of Stratecution come to life? What is it Orchestrator do and how do you activate success?


Brian Lambert 08:43  

That's great. And to help us with that topic. We've got a special guest somebody who's living in that that space of Stratecution Orchestration and making it work. It's Amy Ben, wha How you doing Amy?


Amy Benoit 08:55  

Hey guys, I'm well, thank you for having me.


Brian Lambert 08:57  

Great. Thanks for being here. So let me interrupt. Do you see a little bit you and I go back to the CES conference in 2019, where you and I first met and we actually broke bread together at the sales hood meeting with Eli Cohen. And you and I talked there, we had Erich Starrett, with us and actually Scott was there as well. And he had his simpletest, jacket off, lab coat. And you and I chatted a little bit. And we've been in touch ever since. And we've been talking about the concept of activating a team, enrolling the strategic view with the executive team, and then cascading that down through the organization and across the organization to get the right people involved. So I'm glad you're here on the podcast with us to unpack these concepts. And can you tell the audience a little bit more about yourself?


Amy Benoit 09:49  

Sure, can. Thank you a couple of things just from your story. Langley is from just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, as my mind I am now Living in San Diego but born and raised natively to the Boston area. And similar to the Wright brothers, I would say one of my approaches to my work is leveraging experimentation. And I'm always trying to, as you said, Tinker, to make sure that we are doing things to create value. I'm, I'm a consultant I started a business a couple years ago and helping executives make decisions. And once we have those priorities, making them into reality as fast as possible. I've learned over the years that if you state the obvious and create some action oriented plans and you get the buy in from the right people, you really can create the energy to move and make momentum for those plans that you need in place. I help organizations operate to scale and more smoothly. And it's really fun to do. I always say that I'm a persistent person who believes in ambitious goals. And if, if you hire me, I provide you with this impetus, if you're a dreamer to kind of stop dreaming and just do it, and I think that oftentimes is, is the difference between getting things done and not just starting.


Brian Lambert 11:29  

That's certainly one of the things that I appreciate about you is that idea of engaging and getting things done. And so back to the centering story, when you think about flight, it's interesting, it seems simple. You get up in the air and you fly. But when you look at what it takes to figure that out, and I love the word tinkering, the Wright brothers did a lot of that tinkering. And they had to figure out things like how much you know, how do you provide the thrust? How do you provide the lift How do you, you know, make it light enough to get off the ground? And then as I mentioned, you know, this idea of how do you control three dimensions or three axes. So let's start with that centering story and the concept of tinkering. I'd love to hear from you, Amy. Just what are you tinkering with right now? And do you have any examples of of how you're you're in that space trying to figure it out to tackle that complexity and operate on multiple axes.


Amy Benoit 12:25  

Side note, I have flown in 1947 Cessna, which is completely off topic. But now that we're talking about planes, I feel like I need to say


Brian Lambert 12:34  

that's the thing about planes if they, if you if you maintain them, they last a long, long time.


Amy Benoit 12:40  

That was a cool story. We can get back to that at the end. But my client right now I have a client that I'm working with, and I'm working to build continuous learning and sustain effectiveness in this organization. That's a big goal to take on. And something that is in need of a lot of advising and continual work. And if I, if I give you some background to this, I think it might help just from the terms of what I'm working with, particularly with this client, and we're get a little hairy. Sure. Um, at the beginning of this year, this particular business unit, and the whole company merged into a very public software company. And it wasn't determined until the end of q1 which ended in April for this fiscal year that they were going to actually remain within this larger organization and the business unit then at the beginning of May started to be able to create their go to market strategy and get financial metrics, goals and everything like this. And they brought me into partner with them to develop their go to market strategy and actually just build this culture of effectiveness. They wouldn't call it that we're calling it that. They just want their folks to hit their goals, a huge plan for me. And typically, you will have an annual kickoff or something with companies. There wasn't one this year because they passed the threshold of kickoff, and then there was the pandemic.

So, we created a business unit kickoff, or what I'll call an off site, virtually, of course, we needed to, to figure out why we were doing this and the goals for the entire organization. First and foremost. And I think that's oftentimes where business leaders and people in general lose focus. You know, they're trying to kind of just tackle everything and anything that comes their way. And an enablement. And in life, a lot of folks lose traction because of this because they're just like, Alright, here's an open area, I hope something resonates, whatever it does, we're gonna, you know, lean on that and make it work. I had to pare back with the Vice President and really focus more on helping them see what the plan of attack was going to be. And focus in on that like laser sharp.


Brian Lambert 15:48  

So let me let me unpack this a little bit, right. So yeah, this situation where a lot of variables right so leaning into the reason this story is a bit of a proxy here. Going out and tinkering with, you know, we've got our, our leather helmets on the right, right brother style. And we're trying to figure this out. So we know what are the things that are known and a bit unknown. So we know that there's this need to either communicate or drive change with the sales team. Because the merger is happening. We know that there needs to be some sort of cascade of the strategy. It sounds like because of that, and then there's this idea of driving the the results and the y that you're you're alluding to, right, but then there's these variables like COVID, we're not going to be in person, we're going to have to figure out something else. And I can, I can imagine that there's a lot of questions in that, right. Is this a huge event where we strap everybody to chairs for three days is this, you know, a couple hours a day, you know, how do we adjust for these conditions and make this land right? So let's stay at that level. Tell us a little bit about How'd you guys go about figuring this out? And what did some of those conversations look like? Because I would imagine there's some tension there between. I've seen, you know, this idea of let's keep doing what we've always done and just moving all virtual, versus, to your point, driving the why,


Amy Benoit 17:16  

yeah. So if we go a layer above, and we figure out that the team has now set priorities, and one of the priorities is of course, hitting quota. However, we have a new business, we're in a whole new organization. So perhaps our life is staying the same, but the context around our life changes. And for this team, what that meant was the fear of the unknown and really, a need to understand does my messaging change part Understanding that and unpacking that, in this continuous learning effectiveness was to create a team off site. And that would do two things improve employee engagement. And I say that and I do also mean talent retention and also help you to as a sales organization hit your numbers because the messaging aligns the concept of going virtual we abdun flowed in and out of throughout the, the few weeks that we were planning this. Originally it was perhaps the leadership team will get together and everyone else will be virtual. We ended up doing a full complete virtual based off of the environment. And focused on just the content that we were delivering.


Brian Lambert 19:06  

Yeah, that makes sense. And if you want what I'm seeing in my mind's eye, you know, as we're thinking about this, it's there's balancing acts, or there's trade offs here, trading off or balancing the long term with the short term. In one, one situation, as you think about this, there's a need to move fast, at the same time be programmatic and not random, right? And then you're also really, there's this juxtaposition or this trade off between what the executives want to tackle versus what the reality of the reps are, where their heads are at, for example, and then you've got the time challenge, right? There's, we have we have a certain amount of time, how are we going to use that wisely. So those are, those are some of the things that you're alluding to here and this gap between strategy and tactics, because what I'm not Hearing is, hey, we need to do some sort off site. Let's