4 Lessons from Navy SEALs for Field Sales

Mila Budeva
Mila Budeva
Feb 6, 2017

Today, we want to explore how good leadership, supported by the latest technology, can empower the frontline workforce to reach optimal productivity, effectiveness and efficiency.

We draw lessons from Navy SEALs, pay head to software developments which support effective communication in the enterprise, and combine the two in the context of a field sales and marketing operation to illustrate a new kind of digitally enabled leadership. So what are the lessons?


1. Good Leadership = Empowered Agency

We couldn’t agree more with the definition provided by highly decorated US Navy SEAL Officers Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in their book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win [1]:

“Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead." 



Whereas Willink derives his understanding from battlefields, their definition of leadership is universally applicable to any hierarchical organisation. 


“With clear guidance and established boundaries for decision-making that your subordinate leaders understand, they can then act independently toward your unified goal.”


In Navy SEAL speak, this is called 'decentralised command'. Navy SEALs undergo years of extensive training, preparing them for unhesitant action in life and death situations. And in the heat of battle, decentralised command is enabled with the latest SATCOM technology, funded by the billions of dollars invested in military technology systems.


Businesses can't put their deskless workforces through a Navy SEAL boot camp, otherwise known as BUD/S. However, any business with a deskless workforce can benefit greatly from a leadership style that exhibits decentralised command - clear guidance upon which others can make decisions and take action.  



2. The Challenge of Decentralised Command in a High Churn Workforce

In place of next-generation military SATCOM systems, workers in the field are often provided with PDF guides, machine manuals, employee handbooks or increasingly, some form of static mobile application or electronic paper to perform basic data capture. Such mechanisms do not support active communication between leaders and agents. With all the information in an unresponsive format and no real-time guidance to empower decision-making within parameters, agents re-invent their own process, decision-making diverges, and adherence to best practice erodes. As a result, significant inefficiencies and risks emerge.   



3. A New Way to Share and Experience Procedural Guidance at Work

To address the challenge, we’ve built Zaptic, the friendly productivity and collaboration solution, where leaders provide guidance, for others to make decisions and take action. Unreliable apps and 100-page employee handbooks are replaced by a flexible 'self-serve' platform, where business leaders deliver guided activities to agents in a friendly mobile experience, without needing the support of IT. Think of this as an 'intelligent to do list' for the frontline workforce, bringing best practice guidance, real-time data insights and task automation apps all into one place.



4. There Are No Bad Field Sales Teams, Only Bad Leaders

Working to digitally transform field sales and marketing processes, we've seen first-hand the benefits of decentralized command in the enterprise environment. Using data insights, business leaders can direct field reps to the highest priority stores and actions, making the desired mission and outcomes extremely clear for each store call.


Once in-store, agents are guided through each step of the store call with access to best practice information and clearly communicated priorities. Action and store level negotiation is supported by integrations with the latest technology - such as image recognition or augmentation - and decision-making is aided with intuitive data insights, helping agents to spot opportunities and build the business.


As a result of decentralised command in field sales and marketing,

zaptic-form-tick.png time in store is halved

zaptic-form-tick.png more products are sold.

zaptic-form-tick.png coverage is increased.

zaptic-form-tick.png execution standards are improved.

zaptic-form-tick.png field teams are happier!


Smarter retail execution and monitoring with Zaptic - learn how!


 [1] https://www.echelonfront.com/extremeownership