Recently, I met with a group of great sales executives. They were looking to raise the bar on performance, driving growth. We talked about a number of things, I was trying to understand what they had in place, the challenges they had, and their execution discipline.

They had invested a huge amount in very powerful training and tools for the sales people. If people were using the training and tools, their performance should have been much better. As we discussed the situation and looked at the data, it turned out people weren’t using the training or tools that had been put in place. Managers weren’t coaching the people on the skills/processed introduced in the training and weren’t leveraging the tools as part of their review and coaching processes.

When I asked why they weren’t using these things they had invested in, and which should be producing results, one of the executives said, “I don’t do templates.”

He had the courage to say what too many sales people and managers practice. They don’t use the tools, templates, checklists that are introduced as part of the training. When I visit an organization, I typically ask, “What sales methodology are you using? What sales tools are you using?” As a follow up, I ask to see a template or form, “OK, can you show me your ‘Green Sheet’ for this….” Or, “Let’s look at the opportunity tab for this deal…”

You know the result, they don’t exist, or are minimally completed. After investing millions in training and tools, they aren’t being utilized.

“I don’t do forms or templates….”

We don’t understand the forms or templates or the value of using the tools (entering the data). We think it’s about the form or the template, or the fields we have to enter into the CRM system or the tool.

It is never about the form or template!!!

It never has been. It is about using the principles, processes, methods, or techniques that have been introduced in the training or with the tools. That’s what produces the results.

But the forms or templates are critical to our ability to do these things.

They serve as aids to help us structure our thinking. They help us consistently apply the principles that we have learned. They help us create the good habits to consistently execute those things that we know create results.

It is never about the form or template!!!

In 2009, Atul Gawande wrote The Checklist Manifesto. It was the result of research he had done primarily in medicine. It focused on how otherwise smart and capable people/teams fail to achieve even the simplest of goals–for instance reducing post surgery infections.

In case after case, the introduction of a simple form, template, checklist provided dramatic improvements in performance.

It is never about the form or template!!!

Guwande discovered, by using these checklists, they simply reinforced the things we already know to produce results. They help us structure our thinking and actions, and bring a discipline and consistency of execution–doing the things that work and not doing the things that don’t work.

It is never about the form or template. But if we don’t use them, the probability of our being able to consistently execute and do the things we know produce results plummets.

We introduce training, tools, methods, processes because we know they help us improve and produce results. We need reinforcement to help us consistently do the things we have invested in learning. We need to create habits that we execute consistently, every meeting, every customer interaction, every call, every opportunity, every account, every day.

It is never about the form or template, but what they help us achieve!