Amazon’s Leadership

Amazon seems to always be in the news.  Recently it has been their decision to select both New York and Washington DC as locations for what was dubbed: HQ2.  They also make the news for new innovations and concepts they are bringing to the market or because they have acquired a new company.  Of course, there are the issues its founder is currently experiencing. According to Forbes, Amazon is the second most admired company behind only Apple.  So I wanted to look at what Amazon considers its key principles and see if we can learn anything from it that would beneficial to us.

I found Amazon’s principles at the following career page:  I have copied that page and included it below for you.

Leadership Principles: We use our Leadership Principles every day, whether we’re discussing ideas for new projects or deciding on the best approach to solving a problem. It is just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar.

Customer Obsession:Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership: Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”. 

Invent and Simplify: Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are Right, A Lot: Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to dis-confirm their beliefs.

Learn and Be Curious: Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and Develop the Best: Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the Highest Standards: Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think Big: Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for Action: Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking. 

Frugality: Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.

Earn Trust: Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive Deep: Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit: Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver Results: Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle

There is a lot of principles for their leaders to follow.  What was surprising for me was how many of these are applicable for sales professionals. 

Customer Obsession: This one seems obvious for sales professionals.  Many times we are torn between doing what is best for the customer and what is best for our company.  I believe if the company and in turn, the sales professional are obsessive about treating the customer right and doing what is best for the customer, that they will win.
Ownership: It has been said in many of my sales positions throughout my career that I am the owner of my territory.  While I may need help from other people within the organization to be successful, it is on me to bring in the numbers.  Having a mindset that has this type of ownership in your territory will lead to being successful.
Invent and Simplify: This principle may not seem like a role for sales professionals but I want you to look at it in a different light.  Your job is to invent a solution for your clients that will simplify their lives.  How can we as sales professionals make their jobs or personal lives better?
Be Curious: Many sales methodologies want you to “Find the pain” or “find the problem.”  That would be easy if you could go into a sales meeting and ask: “Tell me what your problems are and what your pain is.” and the customer knows it and your product solves it perfectly.  But most sales conversations are not that easy.  You need to have a high level of curiosity to determine how you can help a client. 
Bias for Action: Nothing happens in business until something is sold.  Nothing is typically sold until someone is prospected.  You need to keep your activity at a high level and never stop moving forward.  Move your deals forward with each interaction, move a prospect to action, move yourself to pick up the phone or knock on a door.
Frugality: For you traveling sales reps, it is easy to see your budget, per diem, or maximum allowed for a hotel room as the highest you can go without getting in trouble and have no problem booking things up to the limit.  But I would encourage you to again take an ownership mentality and be frugal.  If you ate at a less expensive dinner, could you squeeze another business trip in during the year?  
Earn Trust: Trust is your currency with your prospects and clients.  They are not going to spend their money with you until they trust you and your company to deliver on the promises you have made.  You earn trust by doing what you say you are going to do, being on time, being authentic and friendly.
Dive Deep: Being curious allows you to dig deep into the issues of your prospect. But you also need to dive deep into the organization’s ranks to develop relationships with as many people as possible.  this type of deep dive may require going high in the organization or going low or wide.  You also need to develop deep relationships.  Learn about your prospects family, likes, dislikes and goals and aspirations.
Have a backbone: There are times when you need to stand up for what is right.  This may be with a customer or someone internal to your organization.  Do not be afraid to have some testicular fortitude. (BALLS)
Deliver Results: Again, nothing happens until something is sold. You are paid to make sales, make sure you do that.  Put a plan in place that will help you accomplish your goals.  

Hopefully you can apply some of these tenants to your professional life. Good luck and happy selling!

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