The Bombshell That Didn’t Explode

On Aug. 19, 2019, the Business Roundtable, a gathering of 181 chief executive officers representing the United States’ largest corporations, produced a potentially revolutionary document. For 40 years, the Roundtable had issued annual commentaries on the principles of business. On this date, it presented a statement that superseded its previous observations in order to offer a “modern standard for corporate responsibility.” The CEOs began this “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” by confirming their faith in the way nearly every business operates:

“Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.”

Then, they dropped a bombshell. They pledged to lead their companies according to five purposes, in this order of priority:

    1. Delivering value to customers.
    2. Investing in employees, which “starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits [and includes] training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world [and fostering] diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.”
    3. Working with suppliers “fairly and ethically.”
    4. Supporting the communities where the business operates.
    5. “Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate.”

The purpose that had driven business for decades, and which the Roundtable had previously supported — namely, short-term profit for investors and shareholders — doesn’t even appear on the list. Long-term profitability replaces this purpose, and it is in fifth place in terms of priority.

The bombshell didn’t explode. A few journalists hailed the statement as a long-awaited breakthrough in corporate thinking, while others regarded it cynically as an attempt to blunt anti-capitalist criticism. The press release was news for a couple of days, and then it dropped off the media’s radar.

Mostly, people didn’t seem to know what to do with it.

Shining a Spotlight on Sales

The Business Roundtable clearly defined a critical problem to solve: prioritizing the well-being of people over the profit they generate. Its statement leaves one question that matters for business executives and sales leaders: How?

How do you find the right relationship between profitability and the well-being of everyone affected by your enterprise? Which part of your business do you look at first? How do you diagnose what’s wrong and develop a solution that actually solves the problem? How do you maintain financial viability in the process?

There’s a direct way to address these questions. It starts by acknowledging the obvious: Your business serves your clients. Without clients, you don’t have a business. And without client loyalty, you won’t have a business that lasts.

There is credible research by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, outlined in their book “The Challenger Sale,” that identifies the business activity that creates or destroys clients’ loyalty. It’s not your marketing. It’s not who they know within your company. It’s not even the quality and pace of your delivery. It’s the way they are treated, regarded and cared for during the selling process. For that experience, they are willing to pay more, buy more, forgive more and refer more.

Therefore, if you want to help build a business that not only survives but thrives, take a penetrating look at the way your business sells: not the way you talk about it but the way it actually happens. The way your salespeople are with clients. The way you, as sales manager, work with your team. The way your systems, processes and policies affect your entire sales force. You could go so far as to say, “As you sell, so shall you reap.”

Once you shine a spotlight on how your business sells and how it drives people to make sales happen, you may come to a startling conclusion: Improvement isn’t enough; you need a transformation.

Transformation Is Possible and Demanding

The word “transformation” has become popular in business circles. Unfortunately, as its popularity rises, the power of a word diminishes with overuse. The word “transformation,” in this sense, emerged in the 1960s when it was applied to personal development in what has become known as the human potential movement. It described a radical shift in human thought and behavior — a profound and permanent change from the norm.

In the late 1990s, transformative learning became its own field of study. Today, it draws on a wide range of thought and practice, from ancient wisdom to modern neuroscience. It focuses on how human beings undergo fundamental, permanent change — as individuals, in groups and in institutions. It offers a unique understanding of why sales training doesn’t stick, and it provides effective practices for helping people make the shifts in thought and action that can change selling — and the people who do it — for good.

You can apply a transformational formula — R=A+C+E™ (results = attitude + competence + effort®) — to create the conditions in which transformation can occur. It involves requiring your sales force and management team to prioritize the well-being of themselves and their clients as they sell.

Sales Transformation

This process requires addressing four fundamental elements in a way that is simple, practical and integrated:


Transformation is about achieving the sales results your company is seeking in a way that people are proud of and want to keep doing. You must have both: the achievement of results and the being proud of how you achieve them. The latter that delivers the former.


There are two critical elements of attitude: the purpose on which your selling is focused and the ability of your salespeople to manage their mindset moment by moment as they work.

The dirty little secret about sales is that everyone — seller and client alike — believes down deep that the purpose of selling is to convince the buyer to make the purchase. This conviction is universal, and it is why the sales environment can be so toxic.

There is another way to sell, another focus that transforms all selling activity into action that promotes well-being and that actually results in greater sales. You can call it “raising the DQ of your client.”

You’re likely familiar with IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence). DQ is decision intelligence — the client’s understanding of the problems they have and the solution that will actually solve them. Make that understanding the purpose of your selling activity, and everything can change for the better.

To do so well — to avoid the knee-jerk temptation to pitch, persuade, and pressure — sellers must develop the ability to manage their state of mind as they work. They need to stay relaxed, remain focused on raising the DQ of their client and know the steps their clients must take to make their most informed buying decision.


There are skills salespeople must learn in order to master DQ selling. Chief among them is the art of leading conversations that result in right action: selling conversations that engage clients, build trust and generate committed action and sales management conversations that keep everyone thinking deeply, collaborating fully and developing their expertise.


Sellers must do the right thing at the right time with the right people. Developing and implementing a sales and management system that actually focuses on raising client DQ is a system that sellers actually want to use. It fits with their fundamental integrity and requires the best of their character and ability. For those reasons, it is self-sustaining and results in self-development, job satisfaction and sales success.

Your Next Step

If you’re interested in taking the next step, start talking with three groups of people about how their well-being is expanded or diminished by the experience of your selling activities:

Your Customers

Do they look forward to conversations with your sales staff? Do they come away from them wiser, more informed and more thoughtful? Do they enjoy and benefit from your selling process?

Your Entire Sales Staff, From Rep to Director

Do they flourish personally and professionally from being part of your selling organization? Are they learning? Are they delighted on a daily basis?


Are you thriving in the part you’re playing in sales leadership? Are you growing? Are you finding fulfillment?

Take all of this data — the good, the bad and the ugly — and use it to start shaping a sales system that is grounded in promoting the well-being of everyone involved. When you do so, you will see the release of a powerful, trustworthy energy that will lift your sales and create a workplace that no one wants to leave.

And, you will have greater client loyalty and increased sales — the mark of genuine transformation.