The hero must die

June 07, 2023

If you ask any business owner if they want more revenue, the answer is a resounding, “Yes, you idiot.”

You might even get a funny response like, “Is the pope Catholic?”

But most owners don’t want to face the reality of what it really takes to grow.

No, I’m not talking about working harder.

I’m talking about attacking your business’s biggest enemy …

Your ego.

We all want to grow our companies. We want out of the day-to-day. We don’t want everything to depend on us.

And yet …

We think we are the only ones who can do critical tasks.

We’re afraid to let others step in for fear of what their mistakes might cost the business.

We may even bad mouth employees (that we’ve hired, mind you) because they cannot match our level.

But we forget that what got us to this place is not success … it’s failure.

We failed before we succeeded.

We failed for so long that we fell in love with success.

We like looking good.

We like being the hero.

And that’s the problem.

You are your own ceiling.

Your growth is capped by your own limitations as a human.

Sure, you can do more.

You can push harder, work longer.

But if you’re the only solution to every problem, you’ll never be enough.

It’s a quandary because you’ve worked so hard, and you really are incredible at what you do.

You know the painful lessons that got you here.

If you want to grow beyond what you alone can achieve, you have to give your team the opportunity to fail.

But your business can’t fail along with them.

So how do you kill the hero without killing the business?

The Fail Fast Framework

Failure is (unfortunately) a spectacular teacher.

Failure makes us resilient.

It pushes us to attack problems in new ways, grow into new skill sets.

I invite failure into key areas in any business I own and pinpoint other areas where missing the mark would be detrimental.

If you want a team that can kill it on a grand scale, they have to practice failing.

Train your team to nail the macro moments by pushing for failure in the micro.

Imagine a pro football team that’s just finished an undefeated season.

They’re going nuts on the field: High-fiving. Spraying champagne. Pouring Gatorade on their coaches.

They’re going to the Super Bowl!

But there’s one problem …

Their season was stacked with c-level teams. Every game they won was a walk in the park.

They think they're the best of the best because they’re undefeated, but they’ve never faced a formidable opponent.

When it comes time for the Super Bowl …. it’s a total bloodbath.

It's the same in your business.

Your team has to face big challenges to learn how to win big.

And if you want them to win, you have to let them fail.

Let me give you an example from my agency:

Our Account Strategists are the main relationship point for our clients. (Other agencies call them Account Managers, Account Executives, etc. I intentionally gave them a different title … but that’s another email.)

They have a really high close rate when it comes to winning upsold work.

But their close rate was significantly lower on multi-service, 12-month retention work than it was on single-service upsell.

The Account Strategists had the same responsibilities on retention and upsell: pitch the work, build the contract, retain the client.

What we realized was trying to use upsell pitching as practice for 12-month contract work was like bringing the National T-ball champs to the major leagues.

Upsell conversations were fluid, organic. The work practically sold itself.

The conversation for the 12-month renewals was much more difficult.

It was bigger dollars, more complex concepts, higher stakes for every player at the table. And if they treated it like the light-hearted upsell conversations, they’d lose and the client would churn.

The micro-playing field we thought we had for training wasn’t setting them up for the macro-obstacles they needed to overcome.

So we created a high-stakes, big leagues simulation.

Every week, all of our account people get into a room with our top sales person for a mock pitch workshop.

The sales person plays the part of the client.

The Account Strategist delivers their pitch for the new 12-month contract in front of all of his peers.

(And they have to really pitch. No copping out. No breaking the fourth-wall. You practice like you play.)

And our sales leader tears them apart.

He asks hard questions so they get reps thinking on their feet and answering the unanswerable.

He critiques their presentation skills, their contract, their assumptions. Everything.

He even tells them if he would buy from them.

These mock workshops have become one of the most valuable tools in our entire agency.

The result … more clients retained and more upsells closed.

So, don't shy away from failure — embrace it.

Fail in practice. Win in the Super Bowl.

Kill the hero to let the business thrive.

Talk Soon,

Zach Williams

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