The Mayflower’s voyage was a test of will and survival. The pilgrims had sold nearly all their possessions and worked hard to pay for their passage. The voyage was a stormy and unpleasant one with many of the passengers so seasick they could scarcely get up. After more than two miserable months on the Atlantic Ocean, the band of 102 people finally managed to reach the New World.

The colonists spent the first winter, which only 53 passengers and half the crew survived, living onboard the Mayflower. Once they moved ashore, the colonists faced even more challenges. During their first winter in America, more than half of the Plymouth colonists died from malnutrition, disease and exposure to the harsh New England weather. Without the help of the area’s native people, it is likely that none of the colonists would have survived. An English-speaking Pawtuxet named Samoset helped the colonists form an alliance with the local Wampanoags, who taught them how to hunt, forge, and grow local crops. At the end of the next summer, the Plymouth colonists celebrated their first successful harvest with a three-day festival of thanksgiving. We still commemorate this feast today.

Sales Performance Management professionals can learn a few lessons from the way the pilgrims battled the odds and demonstrated their survival instincts. We listed some of them below:

1. Have faith in your purpose
The pilgrims were known for their unwavering conviction of reaching their destination. They had a strong purpose to settle and had full faith in their belief in God and confidence in themselves to survive the testing ordeals.

From an SPM professional’s standpoint, having a clear goal or purpose is crucial for sustaining your performance. You should clearly understand how your role in sales operations enriches the effectiveness of the salesforce and how the belief in your own contribution supports and drives the strategic goals of the entire organization.

2. Practice Discipline
The Pilgrims demonstrated an example of disciplined living, not only by completing the long and difficult voyage but also the way they had survived in a new and completely unknown geography by being adaptable and flexible. Their ethic of self-mastery and discipline is a learning deck for SPM professionals.

An SPM professional’s job has multiple facets. You cannot afford to lose sight of one at the expense of another. You must constantly work towards making the salesforce more productive. You work on providing better analysis to help them make better and faster decisions, shortening the sales cycles, increasing the sales frequency, and increasing sales deal size.

It’s about understanding your role, committing to the process and delivery schedule, understand how you fit into your role, communicating with the key stakeholders, letting them understand and appreciate your role, and taking proactive steps rather than just let wait for people to come and ask for things.

The practice of discipline to drive salesforce efficiency with flexibility and adjust processes to meet business demands is the hallmark of your success.

3. Care About Others
The Pilgrims had social concern. They lived with locals who looked different than then did and had a different religion and culture. They knew that they were citizens of another world, but they sought to improve the world they were passing through. The Pilgrims made their new world better, not by tearing down the old, but by constructive work and fair dealings with their new neighbors.

In an SPM professional’s world, there are multiple stakeholders like Sales, Finance, Human Resources, Legal and IT involved in a sales incentive plan. You cannot adapt a reckless approach to deal with all these stakeholders. You need to be politically savvy to interface with them while maintaining the focus on supporting the sales organization.

In addition to the internal stakeholders, pay attention to your external ‘customers’ – the salesforce itself. Understand how business conditions and natural disasters can affect them. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, many of the leading sales organizations adapted to the situation to give quota relief to their salesforces. Remember, your salesforce is your customer. Be compassionate and flexible. Make exceptions to the rules at the right times and for the right reasons to make your sales team function better.

4. Dream Great Dreams
The Pilgrims dreamed great dreams. They dreamed of a haven for themselves and for their children. The Pilgrims’ strength of spirit was forged by a strong faith in God, tough discipline, a foresight, and by regular habits of winning against odds.

As an SPM professional, do not lose yourself in your regular daily activities. Take a holistic approach and look at your function as the binding key between the corporate business goals and sales execution. Put on your system thinking cap to build structured processes around quota setting, territory alignments, sales compensation management et al, not for the sole purpose of moving up the value chain as an individual contributor. You are here to help the entire corporation in achieving its mission. Think big!

5. Triumph of survival instinct
The pilgrims exhibited tremendous fighting instincts during the voyage. After battling the storms and sea sickness for more than two months, when they finally reached the Plymouth Rock, they had no home or food. It was winter, and most of them were too weak, cold and hungry, to survive. However, they had the indomitable spirit and mental toughness to survive the trying conditions.

SPM systems have their own storms and trying conditions – they face frequent data disruptions and continuous changes in strategies and internal IT systems. There are numerous dependencies and external factors that can very quickly bring in significant changes to business processes, incentive plans, and resource availability. This is the reality of your job.

In spite of these difficulties you have to be able to adapt and guide the processes and procedures to support an organizational goal – to make your salesforce succeed in the field. It may be cliché but “change is the only constant factor.” You cannot do much to stop or avoid the changes, but you can accept the changes and adapt your systems and processes to adjust to those changes.

Be tough and let your survival instinct come to the forefront. You will always triumph at the end!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!