• March 2012

Why Purpose Matters

By Lisa Earle McLeod
Keynote Speaker and Author
McLeod & More, Inc.

In an era in which many companies seem like heartless sweatshops grabbing for every nickel they can get and squeezing their employees for more and more, having a larger purpose still matters.

People have become jaded about mission and vision statements. Too often, they become meaningless platitudes put on a placard that hangs in the lobby and that no one reads.

A purpose is different. A purpose is a concrete reason to get out of bed in the morning. It’s how you and your company make a difference today. A clearly articulated purpose restores nobility and meaning to work.

Here’s why your purpose matters:

1. Purpose is why your organization exists. Purpose drives sales. You don’t have to create world peace. Your purpose can be helping customers be more successful or making a difference in your industry.

2. Purpose makes you money. A study by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that organizations driven by purpose and values outperformed the market 15:1 and comparison companies 6:1. Purpose may sound fluffy, but it translates into cold hard cash. Having a purpose beyond making money almost always results in you making more money.

3. Purpose isn’t just a feel-good thing; it’s essential in a tough economy. One of our clients provides IT services to small businesses. Two years ago, if you asked their people what they did, they would have told you—“We sell IT services.” After we started working with them we made a critical shift. Now their CEO says, “Our purpose is to help small businesses be more successful.” We pulled that purpose to the front and center of everything they do. The result: Their sales are up 35 percent. In a challenging economy, when most of their competitors are floundering, they increased revenues by 35 percent. Ask anyone in their organization what they do, and they’ll tell you. “We help small businesses be more successful, and we’re damn good at it!”

4. Purpose-driven salespeople outperform product-driven salespeople. In a double-blind study I did with a major biotech company, the single unifying characteristic of the top performers was a sense of larger purpose. The salespeople who were product-focused or who wanted to win the trip did okay. But the salespeople whose clearly articulated purpose was to heal people sold more than everyone else consistently.

For them, it wasn’t just about touting features and benefits or winning a trip to Aruba. They’re playing for higher stakes. One top-performer summed it up saying, “If it’s 4:30 on a rainy Friday afternoon, other sales reps go home. I don’t. I make the extra sales call, because I know I’m not just pitching a product. I’m saving people’s lives.”

5. Purpose ignites the secret yearnings of our hearts. Human beings have two fundamental emotional needs: We want connection and we want meaning. We want to have close personal relationships, and we want our work to count for something. We want to make a difference.

I’ve worked with more than 200 leading sales organizations. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, the people who have a fire in their belly are the people who have a purpose.

Working for a higher purpose engages people’s passion in a way the spreadsheets never will. Products and profits connect with your head.

The bottom line: Purpose connects with your heart. If you want your organization to be more successful, start with purpose.

About Lisa Earle McLeod

Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod is an expert in sales force and leadership development. An author, consultant, syndicated columnist, media commentator, and keynote speaker, she is recognized as a thought-leader whose latest book, The Triangle of Truth, was named a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book for Leaders.

A bottom-line-oriented business advisor whose firm, McLeod & More, Inc. was featured in Fortune magazine, she is also a problem-solving expert whose conflict-resolution handbook was delivered to every member of the House and Senate. And she’s a leadership contributor for Forbes.com, she blogs regularly for The Huffington Post, and she has written more than 500 articles.

This high-energy keynote speaker who has rocked the house everywhere from Apple to Pfizer to The United Way is a repeat guest on “Good Morning America” and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows.

McLeod’s clients range from pharmaceutical to financial services, including Ann Taylor, Capital G, West Pharmaceutical, Black & McDonald, Kimberly-Clark, CMIT, and numerous franchises and entrepreneur organizations. She is also a personal-development expert whose first book “Forget Perfect,” was featured in The New York Times, and continues to sell a full decade after the original printing. Her essay collection, “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear,” was featured on Oprah.com.

McLeod and her husband Bob live in Atlanta. They are the parents of two fabulous teenage daughters.